Sefton Continues Success with DOD Work

December 8, 2014

Dr. JoEllen Sefton, Associate Professor and Director of the Warrior Research Center in the School of Kinesiology, received two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grants from the Department of Defense (DOD) totaling approximately $440,000 to conduct research with CFD Research Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama. Sefton’s Warrior Research Center will complete the two Phase II studies over two years, in conjunction with Dr. Gretchen Oliver, Associate Professor and Director of the Sports Medicine and Movement Laboratory in the School of Kinesiology.

One study will uncover the effects on the body of wearing military head gear, such as helmets and night vision goggles, on the cervical spine. The information will assist the military in developing a software tool to assess injury risk associated with mechanical exposures from head-supported mass. The other study will investigate the forces and motions involved with actions utilizing the shoulder, such as opening military vehicle hatches, to help develop a shoulder exertion and injury risk assessment tool to improve military equipment and training.

The School of Kinesiology received two of the five SBIR grants awarded by the DOD. With these grants, a small business partners with a university and applies for funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or DOD. Phase I studies are more prevalent pilot studies, then a few are chosen for more in-depth Phase II studies, and even fewer are selected for Phase III studies. CFD Research Corporation (CFDRC) is a technology company that provides Research and Development contractually with federal agencies, research institutes, and large businesses. CFDRC executes Phase I, II, and III SBIR projects and other collaborative contracts. The research for these two grants is subcontracted to Auburn University by CFDRC.

Dr. JoEllen Sefton, Associate Professor and Director of the Warrior Research Center in the School of Kinesiology
Dr. JoEllen Sefton, Associate Professor and Director of the Warrior Research Center in the School of Kinesiology

“We are sports medicine and biomechanists; CFD are the computer people,” Dr. Sefton said. “We are the injury experts and they build their computer model off of what we find in the real world.” Dr. Sefton will partner with Dr. Oliver, whose expertise is in biomechanics. They will receive $100,000 over 18 months and the project must be completed by summer 2016.

The Phase II study will help the Army determine what changes to make in military equipment and training, especially as more females enter combat positions. Approximately $340,000 will be provided to Auburn to complete the two-year study. The grant will fund Dr. Sefton, Dr. Oliver, one research assistant or post-doctoral student, and two graduate assistants. Dr. Sefton also hopes to purchase a new treadmill for the Neuromechanic’s lab, a laser-targeted firing system to analyze fatigue, Zephyr biosensor shirts that track physiological measures like heart rate variability, muscle testing dynamometers, and Optogait, an expandable system for gait testing.

CFD visited the School of Kinesiology on November 10 to discuss the details of the projects. Dr. Sefton will eventually apply for the final Phase III project in order to conduct a human study in the field.

Story by Kristin Roberts