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9/30/11 - NATO includes MSU engineering research in conference

A Mississippi State biomedical engineering researcher focused on decreasing amputations and other leg injuries to soldiers in IED-attacked vehicles will present her findings next week at a NATO conference in Canada.

Lakiesha N. Williams, an assistant professor of biological engineering at the university, will address NATO's Research and Technology Organization during a Monday-Wednesday [Oct. 3-5] defense meeting in Halifax, Canada. Organized by NATO'S Human Factors and Medicine Panel, the gathering will deal with "blast injury across the full landscape of military science."

Williams, director of the interdisciplinary human body simulation research group in the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering, is the principal investigator for the research project. She works closely with co-principal investigator Jun Liao, an assistant professor of biological engineering.

This $400,000 project receives support from the Department of Defense as part of a larger project at MSU's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems.

Their investigation uses high-performance computer modeling and simulations to mimic what happens to soldiers' legs when vehicles they're in run over improvised explosive devices and other explosive materials. Understanding human body impacts under these scenarios ultimately can help the military develop tools and innovative designs to decrease the traumatic impact on soldiers.

"We simulate how bones break, skin tears and muscles fail in soldiers' lower extremities," said Williams, an MSU doctoral graduate who also studies traumatic brain injuries. "High performance computers can simulate effects on the legs from IED explosions."

She said the MSU research differs from other automotive studies affecting people's legs, since few other studies have focused on intensive, explosive battlefield situations and incorporated this high level of anatomical details.

Assisting Williams and Liao on the Human Body Simulation team include biomedical engineering doctoral student Robbin E. Bertucci of Long Beach and senior biological engineering major Ryan M. Gilbrech of Slidell, La.

With interests in mathematics, science and helping others, Bertucci planned as an undergraduate to pursue medical school before she developed a relationship with Williams.

"This interdisciplinary field can lead into all kinds of directions," she said.

Williams said continuing development of this research project could assist professionals who face potential traumatic, high-impact situations, including medicine, sports and public safety in traumatic, high-impact situations.

After presenting the research group's findings at the NATO conference, Williams and other researchers will add more advanced modeling and simulations to the current model.

"Our group's larger goal includes developing a full, virtual human body model that can provide accurate predictions of injuries," she said.

Robbie S. Ward | University Relations

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