ARL researcher receives highest presidential award for science, engineering research

November 08, 2011

Story Highlights

  • Mechanical engineer, Dr. Reuben Kraft receives highest presidential award for science.
  • 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers for research in computational mechanics.
  • WMRD researcher named by President Obama as recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers

Dr. Reuben Kraft, of Whiteford, Md., a mechanical engineer within the Army Research Laboratory's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., was recognized in an official awards ceremony Oct. 14 in Washington, D.C., as a 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers for his research in computational mechanics.

His work in multi-scale modeling techniques applied to armor materials and high-rate injury biomechanics is contributing to the protection of U.S. Soldiers and its allies.

Kraft was one of 94 researchers recently named by President Obama as recipient of the award, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

He has provided significant leadership and vision for ARL's research in computational high-rate injury biomechanics for Soldier protection, ARL officials claim. He was invited by the U.S. Medical Research and Materiel Command to serve on the Department of Defense Computational Brain Injury Modeling Expert Panel, where he provides critical leadership for steering basic and applied biomedical research. He is a principle investigator of the ARL Computational Injury Biomechanics Laboratory where he helps pave the way for new biomechanics modeling approaches across the Department of Defense.

"For me, this award means that the highest level of our government values the contributions of ARL scientists and engineers - it's good to get that feedback from the President," Kraft said. "In addition, I feel very fortunate to receive this award since I'm surrounded by extremely motivated and brilliant young ARL scientists and engineers."

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

Kraft is an expert on neurotrauma biomechanics and serves as one of four group leaders for a Department of Defense Integrated Research Team that spans across the Army, Navy, and Air Force for developing a deployable diagnostic device for mild traumatic brain injury. He is a subject matter expert on neurotrauma biomechanics and was invited by the Combat Casualty Care Research Program of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center and National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institute of Health to present his suggested combination of three detection modalities that could be researched, developed into a field deployable device, and deployed to the Warfighter within two to five years at the 2010 Advanced Technology Applications for Combat Casualty Care Conference.

Kraft continued to invent this idea and has submitted a patent application to ARL Legal entitled, "BrainAid Software Application for Multimodal Mobile Screening of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury." ARL Legal has ranked the patent with the P0 rating, which means there exists sufficient government interest by ARL Invention Evaluation Committee.

The U.S. Medical Research and Materiel Command and the Defense and Veteran's Brain Injury Center has asked Lockheed Martin to work with Kraft to further clinically test and develop the device to be field-deployable.

Kraft's mentoring and community outreach - a significant part of the award - focus particularly on promoting diversity within the engineering sciences.

"While mentoring students and colleagues from high school to the graduate level, he has ignited a passion within the U.S. Army Research Laboratory for world-class computational mechanics applied to Department of Defense problems," said Dr. Christopher Hoppel, chief of the High Rate Mechanics and Failure Branch.

Hoppel said Kraft's dedication to innovative science, developing novel technology solutions, and to mentoring young scientists and engineers will continue to enable the development of improved protection technologies into the future.

Kraft is an adjunct professor of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Harford Community College and teaches a math class regularly in the evenings. Every summer since joining ARL, he has participated as a guest speaker for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Scholars Summer Program at Harford Community College aimed at promoting academic skills of college freshmen. Also at Harford Community College, Kraft served as one of four panel members for a leadership program entitled "Being an Informed Citizen_. 21st Century Skills for the Changing Job Market" where he discussed what it means to be an engineer and scientist working for the Army.

Inside Kraft's Research

"Probably one of the most interesting aspects of my research is using computational mechanics to develop a detailed understanding of the biomechanics and injury mechanisms that occur in humans at high rates of loading. Understanding humans in extreme environments is a multidisciplinary topic where there is much to learn. The most intriguing part of my research is the cross-cutting relationships between many different fundamental disciplines: mechanics, computer science, materials, network science and neuroscience," Kraft said.

"One of my research areas is working to understand and model the relationships between brain structure and brain function. From my point of view, the gap was apparent when I started to develop computational models to understand blast and ballistic effects to the brain. I stumbled across the question, if I can model the biomechanical structural damage, what effect does that damage have on the functional brain outcomes and cognition? You might call this the "so-what" question.

"Another gap is understanding the process of injury at high rates of loading so that unparalleled and superior Soldier protection can be developed," he said. "We need a multidisciplinary, multi-scale understanding of the relationship between the human body's structural architecture and its response to extreme environments, such as high-rate accelerative and impact loading."

Kraft teamed with the Translational Neuroscience Branch of the Army Research Laboratory's Human Research and Engineering Directorate, and with engineers in ARL's Computational and Information Sciences Directorate to develop, and receive a second year of funding for, a coveted in-house research grant to study "Brain Structure-Function." Their work, which is funded through the ARL Director's Strategic Initiative, is expected to "lay the foundation and framework to one day help answer the question I asked myself."

Kraft said the ARL team he is helping to lead is also developing advanced computational tools to model the human with high resolution. "Injury mechanisms such as fracture are explicitly represented so we can determine protection methods and mitigation strategies. Building and improving the computations is a collaborative effort with my ARL colleagues from multiple directorates and with many external partners and collaborators with varied backgrounds."

Kraft has 19 publications, 1 submitted patent, and over 30 technical presentations (11 invited).


Last Update / Reviewed: November 8, 2011