Stefan Duma, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, was recently named the Harry Wyatt Professor in Engineering.
"Dr. Duma is internationally recognized for his landmark studies in injury biomechanics and traumatic brain injury," said Clay Gabler, chair of the honorifics committee of the Virginia Tech -- Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. This honorifics committee submitted the nomination, approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors at its March meeting.
"I believe Dr. Duma's most significant technological innovation has been his pioneering research in concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. His research has put him squarely in the midst of a roiling national debate over how to protect our young athletes from concussions," Gabler said.
"Virginia Tech's work -- done by the school's engineering department with support from the football program and its coach, Frank Beamer -- could be the opening act of a new era in which sports equipment is actively designed for injury reduction, while star-rating systems allow athletes and coaches to become smart consumers about what's safest to wear," said ESPN's Gregg Easterbrook in an article he authored about Duma's work on July 20, 2011.
In addition to sports-related injuries, Duma has focused on studies of the mechanisms of injuries for pregnant women in car crashes, the biomechanics of eye injuries, the risk of upper extremity injuries from the deployment of airbags, and the biomechanics of blast injuries suffered by the military.
In January of 2012, Duma and his colleagues, Steven Rowson and Joel Stitzel, also of the biomedical school, received the Brain Trauma Foundation Award for their work on impact biomechanics at a meeting in New York City.
Duma was the founding director of Virginia Tech's Center for Injury Biomechanics and has personally received more than $35 million in externally funded research from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Transportation, as well as a host of industrial sponsors. He has published more than 300 papers and five of his Ph.D. students are now in full-time faculty positions.
Duma's appointment as department head was made in 2009. In two years, the program moved from an unranked discipline to 37th in the biomedical engineering category of U.S. News' annual ranking of graduate programs. Research expenditures doubled in the 24-month period to $20 million annually. Duma has successfully recruited faculty, growing the group from 35 in 2009 to 70 in 2011. His efforts have also attracted more than $2 million in foundation gifts to the school in 2011, up from only $250 in 2009.
Currently the biomedical program is only for graduate students, but Duma launched an initiative to establish an undergraduate minor at Virginia Tech. This minor is now available to students in all engineering departments and the first new class was offered in spring 2012.
A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2000, Duma received his bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee, a master's degree from the University of Cincinnati, and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.
The Wyatt Professorship is named in honor of Harry C. Wyatt, a Montgomery County native who graduated in 1924 with an electrical engineering degree from Virginia Tech. He worked at Norfolk and Western Railway, rising to senior vice president in the Roanoke, Va., office. He became a member of the University's Board of Visitors in 1962, serving as rector in 1964. In 1970 Wyatt died, and his friends in the railroad industry established the professorship in 1985.