ByGeorge! Online

March 4, 2003

SEAS Receives $5 Million Grant for Automotive Safety Research

The School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) received a $5 million grant from the Ford Motor Company to conduct research on automotive safety. Kennerly H. Digges, research professor of engineering and applied science, director of biomechanics and safety at the Federal Highway Administration/ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (FHWA/NHTSA) National Crash Analysis Center (NCAC) at GW’s Virginia Campus, will direct the project aimed at further improving the safety of today’s automobiles, with specific attention to child safety.

The funding was part of an out-of-court settlement that did not involve GW. Both Ford and the plaintiffs’ class counsel agreed that more value could be added to the settlement by contributing to research efforts in safety. They also unanimously agreed that Digges was the best person to direct this research.

“This is a unique opportunity and an honor for the NCAC,” said Digges. “We will be able to collaborate with other research universities and institutes and pull the research together utilizing the skills of the best-of-the-best. This substantial amount of funding will allow us to accomplish some major goals and most importantly will save lives on our highways.”

As part of the grant agreement, the NCAC received a $2.5 million research grant and Digges was authorized to designate the remaining funds to other institutions with established programs in safety research.

According to Nabih Bedewi, associate professor of engineering and applied science, and director of the NCAC, it is unusual for a University to be given the authority to administer such large portions of a research grant, and it demonstrates the extraordinary confidence Ford Motor Company and the plaintiffs have in Digges, NCAC, and GW.

Along with targeted efforts in child safety, it is expected that the NCAC will lead research activities in areas such as crash investigations; compatibility of large and small vehicles during impact; and analysis of advanced airbag and safety belt systems, among other topics. Special emphasis will be placed on directing funding toward segments of the population with the greatest needs. While the general motoring public will be the primary benefactors of the research, it also will provide a foundation for numerous master’s and doctoral degrees at GW and other selected universities.

“This award is a testament to the outstanding contributions GW has made to the field of automobile safety,” said Timothy Tong, dean of SEAS. “With this funding, we will be contributing to saving lives while developing the leaders and engineers that will carry on these efforts for years to come. It’s a winning situation for everyone.”

In accepting the grant Digges cited Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash, made famous by the 2001 Ron Howard movie “A Beautiful Mind.”

“Dr. Nash said that if you could negotiate a settlement where everybody wins, you have achieved a perfect settlement,” said Digges.


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