Recent Graduates


Sebastian Giudice (PhD)

Giudice Photo-small3.jpg

Dr. Giudice received his PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2020. His dissertation research focused on using subject-specific models of the brain, automatically generated by leveraging advanced medical image processing algorithms, to investigate the relationships between neuroanatomical characteristics and the brain’s biomechanical response during impact. Following the defense of his dissertation, Dr. Giudice joined the CAB as a Research Scientist, where his work focused on developing novel American football helmet technology, characterizing in-ear sensors for military applications, and continuing to utilize advanced computational and experimental techniques to characterize the biomechanical response of the brain. 

Dr. Giudice left the CAB in 2022 to join Apple as a Product Safety Engineer.

Dissertation: Personalized Finite Element Modeling of the Brain: Understanding Subject-Specific Deformation Patterns



David Moreau (MS)

While David was at CAB from 2019-2021, he spent most of his time running experimental tests focused on lap belt induced pelvis injuries under advisor Dr. Jason Kerrigan. His graduate research was mostly all experimental; he ran both large scale testing and component level testing while at CAB. From his work, the first injury risk function for frontal loading of pelvic wings was created. Throughout his testing, David helped develop a new way of characterizing bone quality, and assisted in documenting standard operating procedures for the test equipment he used.    

Since earning his MS, David joined NAVSEA as a Scientist for the Navy, focusing on the submarine launched missile defense program.

Thesis: Development of an Injury Criteria for Iliac Wing Injuries Under Distributed Frontal Loading


Zhaonan Sun (PhD)

Zhaonan Sun

Dr. Sun received his B.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2014. He joined the Center for Applied Biomechanics (CAB) as a PhD student advised by Dr. Jason Kerrigan in 2015. Dr. Sun’s graduate research at the CAB has mainly focused on mechanical characterization and computational modeling of human subcutaneous adipose tissue, which directly contributed to updates for Toyota’s freely available Total Human Model for Safety (THUMS) Version 7. In spring 2021, Dr. Sun defended his dissertation and graduated with a PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Virginia. His dissertation work has led to the creation of the first series of human adipose tissue constitutive and computational models which can be used to simulate adipose tissue mechanical responses under motor vehicle crash related conditions. This work is available in several peer-reviewed scientific publications. He has also led various biomechanics-related projects, including mechanical characterization of the human knee joint and human cortical bone.

Dr. Sun is currently a principal scientist in the Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) at Toyota Motor North America Research & Development (TMNA R&D) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he leads injury biomechanics safety research projects. Prior to joining Toyota, he was a senior R&D engineer at Align technology.

Dissertation: Material Characterization and Computational Modeling of Human Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue




Kevin Kong (PhD)

Kevin Kong

Dr. Kong’s experience has been focused on soft tissue biomechanics during his time at the Center for Applied Biomechanics (CAB) from 2016-2020, under his advisor Dr. Matthew Panzer. His graduate research combines experimental and computational mechanics to develop both biological and engineering materials Finite Element (FE) models to aid in investigating human body response, including injuries under severe impacts in sports, automotive and military incidents. He has also participated in various biomechanics-related projects, including quantifying seat angles for occupants in autonomous vehicles and developing a human dummy computational model for an American football helmet assessment. In 2020, Dr. Kong defended his dissertation and graduated with a PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Virginia. His dissertation work has led to the creation of sub tissue computational models that can be used to simulate human skin failure as a result of ballistic blunt impacts. In addition, his research outcome has also been utilized to support the development of biofidelic skin simulants.

After earning his PhD, Dr. Kong joined Ansys, Inc as an Application Engineer.

Dissertation: Development of a Computational Model of Skin Damage under Blunt Impact to Investigate Skin Failure Threshold


Daniel Perez Rapela (PhD)

Dani Rapela Perez

Dr. Perez-Rapela has over 10 years’ experience in the field of injury biomechanics and passive safety, with a special interest in vehicle occupant protection, Human Body Models (HBMs) and machine learning. After graduating with a BS+MS in Industrial Engineering at the University of Zaragoza in 2010, Dr. Perez-Rapela joined IDIADA and later the VW-Group where he led the development of multiple vehicles as lateral occupant protection leader in the simulation department of SEAT. Dr. Perez-Rapela graduated with a PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2020, where he holds a post-doctoral researcher position. During his research career, Dr. Perez-Rapela has, among other contributions, developed procedures for the full automation of HBM simulation and morphing, and integrated machine learning techniques in the field of injury biomechanics. These contributions to the field of computational biomechanics have enabled him to develop methodologies for the stochastic analysis of vehicle safety taking into account human and non-human variability, and modeling uncertainty. His work, which includes multiple PMHS tests and HBM simulations, is available in several peer-reviewed scientific publications.

After earning his PhD, Dr. Perez Rapela served for a time as a Research Scientist at UVA's Center for Applied Biomechanics before joining the Institute for Highway Safety as a Research Engineer where he leads their simulation efforts in crash avoidance and crashworthiness.

Dissertation: Methodology for the Evaluation of Human Response Variability to Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors Including Uncertainties

Carolyn Roberts (PhD)

Carolyn Roberts

With seven years’ experience with injury biomechanics research, Dr. Roberts leads the UVA-CAB’s efforts in developing injury prediction tools for the female population. This includes fundamental research on the roles of sex-related geometric, material, and hormonal factors on differences in biomechanics and injury susceptibility between male and females. Her work has been applied to investigate the validity of standard scaling practices for translating between male and female response, and the factors warranting generation of new biomechanical data specifically for females. In addition to this fundamental work, Dr. Roberts has led the UVA-CAB’s efforts in generating female cadaveric data, biofidelity corridors, and injury risk functions for the 5th percentile female THOR lower extremities. Recently her work has focused on field data analysis for injury risk factor evaluation across age and sex, analysis of biofidelity of female injury prediction surrogates, and quantification of belt fit and restraint effectiveness across different external body shapes and skeletal alignment.

After earning her PhD, Dr. Roberts joined UVAs Center for Applied Biomechanics as a Research Associate.

Dissertation: Sex-based Geometric Differences in the Lower Extremity and their Effect on Injury in the Automotive Crash Environment

Benjamin Igo (MS)

Ben Igo

Ben performed his research at the UVA Center for Applied Biomechanics from Fall 2018-Spring 2020 under Dr. Matthew Panzer. His research focused on investigating the mechanical and morphological properties of the pediatric skull to aid in treating pediatric craniofacial pathological conditions. This research consisted of two phases. First, mechanical tests and micro-CT scans were performed on pediatric cranial bone obtained from surgical procedures to understand its microstructure and mechanical properties. Second, an analytical model was developed to model growth of the developing pediatric skull to investigate the impact of tissue growth parameters on the predicted pediatric skull shape, mechanical properties, and thickness. The combined insight from this work will help to address the underlying challenges associated with pediatric craniofacial surgeries so that the overall well-being of pediatric surgical patients can be collectively maximized moving forward.

Since earning his MS, Ben joined Corvid Technologies as a Computational Analyst, working on a wide variety of simulation and modeling projects.

Thesis: Understanding the Mechanical and Morphological Properties of the Pediatric Skull




Varun Bollapragada (PhD)

Varun Bollapragada

Dr. Bollapragada has 9 years of experience in the field of biomechanics and automotive safety. His doctoral research is focused on understanding the influence of the long terms effects of disability associated with injuries on vehicle design in the context of pedestrian safety. He is an expert in multibody modeling and his notable accomplishments include development of multibody models of a sedan and SUV to study pre-ballistic maneuvers in rollover crashes, and a multibody human model representing a 50th percentile male which has been used by OEM’s in improving their vehicle design for pedestrian safety. He has also performed many modeling studies using finite element and multibody human models to assess and improve biofidelity. He has used computational models for sensitivity analysis using design of experiments and Monte Carlo Analysis. He has performed component-level and whole-body cadaveric and ATD tests to develop response corridors and to evaluate biofidelity. His current research interests include subject specific finite element model development from CT scan data using morphing techniques.

After earning his PhD, Dr. Bollapragada joined UVAs Center for Applied Biomechanics as a Research Associate.

Dissertation: The Influence of Disabling Injuries on the Design of the Vehicle Front End for Pedestrian Safety


Ryan Neice (MS)

Ryan Niece

Ryan fulfilled his graduate research requirements at UVA’s Center for Applied Biomechanics from 2017-2019, under his advisor Dr. Matthew Panzer. His graduate research focused on developing an injury predictive pelvis finite element model for lateral dynamic loading. The force response and injury predictions of the pelvis FE model were validated with cadaveric pelvis tests performed at UVA. A simulation matrix was then constructed, leading to an injury threshold analysis, to determine whether anterior or posterior pelvis force could better predict pelvis fracture. Using injury risk functions constructed from simulation data, it was determined that posterior pelvis force was a superior injury prediction metric, suggesting that future side impact ATD designs include posterior pelvis load cells. In addition to his thesis, Ryan worked on other side projects during his time at CAB including: modeling lower extremity response during under body blast loading, testing computational methods to simulate tissue pretensioning, cadaver PMHS experiments, and constitutive modeling.

Since earning his M.S., Ryan has joined the US Army Research Laboratory as a Biomechanical Engineer, evaluating the protection capabilities of current military helmet designs and developing improved protection strategies against TBI-inducing blunt impact.

Thesis: Development and Validation of a Pelvis Finite Element Model for Side Panel Intrusion Threats



Jacek Toczyski (PhD)

Jacek Toczyski

Dr. Toczyski has over 8 years of experience in the field of biomechanics and automotive safety and more than 10 years of experience in the field of computational mechanics. He graduated with Master’s degree from the Warsaw University of Technology (Warsaw, Poland). In 2019, he defended his PhD dissertation at the University of Virginia Center for Applied Biomechanics. His doctoral research was focused on motion prediction based on the data obtained from inertial sensors. During his stay at UVa, Dr. Toczyski was also involved in projects related to occupant safety in rollover crashes, in development and evaluation of new crash test dummies, and in material characterization of hard tissue.

After earning his PhD, Jacek joined the passive safety team at Tesla, Inc. (Tesla Crash Lab)

Dissertation: 3D Trajectory Calculation in Crash Testing Using Inertial Sensors