Brittany Coats recently joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah as an assistant professor where she will continue her research in identifying material properties and injury tolerances in children. Coats—a graduate of the University of Utah’s Department of Mechanical Engineering—recently graduated from University of Pennsylvania (Penn) with a doctor of philosophy in bioengineering.

Coats’ pre- and post-doctoral work at PENN has been spent characterizing the linear and non-linear material properties of skull and brain tissue, respectively, and using these data to develop finite element models to identify injury thresholds specific to children.

“At the University of Utah, my overall objective is to understand mechanisms of pediatric traumatic brain and eye injury in order to develop better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategies for children,” said Coats. “Before I began my research it was commonly assumed that children were ‘miniature adults,’ we now know that isn’t true.”

Coats is particularly interested in understanding the structural changes that occur during the first few years of life, and how those changes affect the mechanical response of biological tissues and thresholds for injury in traumatic events. An important component to Coat’s research will be effective clinical collaboration, as she plans to work closely with researchers at Primary Children’s Hospital and Moran Eye Institute to insure her research findings are closely linked to real-world findings.

“One of the main reasons I came to Utah was because of the strong research-driven medical community surrounding the University of Utah that provides ample opportunity for collaboration,” said Coats. “In addition to outside collaborations, the faculty members in the Department of Mechanical Engineering are some of the most innovative in their fields and I look forward to working with them and joining forces to create good research.”

Before earning her Ph.D. from PENN, Coats graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. While while an undergrad Coats was a member of the Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) Team and boasts that her robot won first place in the “Hockey Robot” Mechatronics Competition.