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Just Fundamental Mechanics and Infant Skull Fractures

In episode two of the 2019 R&D season, Just Science interviews Dr. Brittany Coats, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Utah, about her efforts to use fundamental mechanics to predict infant skull fracture patterns. Over 600,000 children suffer from abuse or neglect each year. The highest percentage of those are less than one year old. After a child suffers an injury, clinicians and investigators often rely on experience to determine if abuse is present, but experience can sometimes be too subjective. Dr. Brittany Coats has spent years researching biomechanics to understand the difference between accidental and abusive trauma, especially in infants. Listen along as she discusses the role of experience in understanding head trauma and her journey to create a computational model to predict how an infant’s skull will fracture in an accident. 

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].

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Dr. Brittany Coats is an associate professor and associate chair of mechanical engineering at the University of Utah. She holds affiliated positions in ophthalmology and visual sciences, pediatrics, and bioengineering. Her research focuses on injury mechanics of the brain and eye, with specific interest in understanding microstructural features and properties that lead to better prevention, detection, and treatment strategies for injury in children and adults. She received her PhD in bioengineering at University of Pennsylvania. Her postdoctoral research forged collaborations with neurosurgeons and ophthalmologists at the University of Pennsylvania to investigate the effect of repetitive head trauma on brain and ocular injury. Her current research efforts are supported by grants from the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and National Institute for Justice.


Additional Resources:

2019 NIJ R&D Symposium Archival