Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Paving a Career Path in Research

May 3, 2016
Evan Bisirri_CIRP@CHOP

A note from Carol Murray, MSS, MLSP, CIRP@CHOP Training Manager: Today we are pleased to welcome a guest blog post from Evan Bisirri, who is currently completing an accelerated degree BS/MS program in Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University and working with CIRP’s Biomechanical Engineering Research team as a co-op student.

Like many students entering college, I was unsure of which career path to take. Unlike the majority, however, my interests were and still are split across numerous fields of math and science. Should I major in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Biology, Physics or Health Sciences?

I finally decided to major in Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University because it not only provided the best combination of my interests, but also gave me the option for easily accommodating a pre-med track. When the time came for applying to my first co-op at Drexel, I still felt heavily conflicted about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do following college. Fortunately I applied to CIRP@CHOP and interviewed with Dr. Aditya Belwadi, who would later become my mentor and PI when I joined the Biomedical Engineering Research team.

I was exposed for the first time to the research process outside of a classroom setting. This included behavioral science, formal publication writing, and, perhaps most importantly, finite element modeling (FEM), a type of computational modeling that allows for the exploration of many more scenarios than could be explored with human subjects.

The primary project I have worked on is a study on the effectiveness and safety of using a seat belt harness pretensioner system in a child restraint system (CRS), which is strongly grounded in FEM.

Making Car Seats Safer

Safety belt pretensioners pre-emptively tighten the belt to remove belt slack immediately prior to impact, and are triggered by sensors in the vehicle. The nature of the experiments and analysis of this project have required me to design computational models of car crash scenarios where data could be gathered on the use of a harness pretensioner system without requiring numerous physical tests.

With FEM, controlled testing environments are created where virtual representations of physical entities are defined in terms of size, orientation, physical constraints, contact with other elements, loading conditions, material properties, and so on. When modeled correctly, FEM can be run in order to obtain data outputs which allow for important measurements to be gathered and compared.

Specifically, I looked at head injury criteria, chest deflection, head and knee acceleration, and the displacement of these body parts. These data were used to compare non-pretensioner models with pretensioner models to understand how the application of such a feature would change the biomechanical properties of a car crash scenario with pediatric occupants.

Other projects I have worked on include a surrogate development project for correctly sizing and classifying CRS so that vehicle and CRS manufacturers can more easily communicate designs in terms of size constraints and then pass this knowledge on to consumers. I was also involved in a behavioral science study designed to compare parent abilities and comfort with following instructions and installing different child safety seats.

As a person with varied interests, the experience I have gained at CIRP has been the driving force in determining the path I wish to take—and it’s research. As I move forward in current and future projects at CIRP, I am excited to see what new skills I will accumulate and what new areas of research I may explore.

**Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to Research in Action to have the latest in child injury prevention delivered to your inbox.**