The success of many engineered systems is dependent on the extent to which they accommodate the needs of users.  When safety is a critical consideration, computational human models are used to ensure optimal safety designs.  The variability in injury is often caused by the variation of the human bodies among the population.  For example, injury data analyses have shown that, among the adult population, small female, elderly, and obese occupants are at increased risk of death and serious injury in motor-vehicle crashes, as compared with mid-sized, young, and male occupants. Unfortunately, the traditional process for developing computational human models for injury assessment primarily focused on three sizes and shapes of human bodies (i.e., small female, midsize male, and large male), and the limited sizes do not account for the morphological variations in skeleton, internal organs, and external body shape outside of the three anthropometric categories.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) have been improving crash simulations by broadening the types of body sizes and shapes considered.  Our parametric human modeling allows the size and shape of a baseline human model to be rapidly varied based on age, sex, stature, weight, or other anthropometric variables. This method provides the foundation for impact simulations of humans with a wide range of body sizes and shapes.

The overall research goal is to develop the next generation of parametric human body models representing the diverse population.  Such models will enable population-based or individualized simulations, which will serve as the foundation for improving safety equity and for adaptive/personalized designs for human safety, such as adaptive vehicle seatbelt and airbag, personalized helmets and other safety devices and sport equipment.

The team currently has the following ongoing projects:

Parametric head model to predict traumatic brain injury and concussion

  • This project is to develop parametric scalp, skull and brain models to investigate whether sex, head size, and head shape affect the risk of traumatic brain injury.

Parametric model for children to predict injuries in pediatric falls and child abuse cases

  • This project is to develop pediatric skeleton models to represent bone morphology over a wide age range. The skeleton models will be extended to whole-body models, which will serve as an objective tool to differentiate between injuries from pediatric falls and child abuse.

Parametric cervical spine and thoracic spine models

  • This project is to develop parametric cervical spine and thoracic spine models to represent vertebrae geometric variations. The model can be potentially used for injury assessment in many types of crash scenarios, especially whiplash injuries in rear impacts.

Parametric upper extremity model

  • This project is to develop parametric humerus, radius, ulna, clavicle, and scapula models to investigate whether age, sex, stature, and body weight may be correlated to upper extremity bone geometries.

Parametric whole-body model for occupant protection in motor vehicle crashes

  • This project is to develop full body human models with a wide range of sizes and shapes. These models will be used for vehicle safety designs to better protect various vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or obese.

TEAM Details 

Meeting time and location:  Our whole MDP team typically meets biweekly on Mondays 5:30 pm – 6:50 pm ET virtually or in-person. Our lab is located at the UMTRI Building, 2901 Baxter Road, but the whole team meeting can be held at a classroom closer to the center of North Campus. Each subteam arranges a convenient time to meet weekly with the faculty PIs and to work together. A two-term commitment will begin January 2023.

In-person participation is expected.  Some team meetings and activities may be held remotely.

Team organization: Each project subteam has a team leader that reports to and meets with the faculty PI. The teams are flexibly structured to enhance creativity and opportunity for student growth.  

Student Checklist: Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign an Intellectual Property (IP) Agreement and complete PEERRS training. To be successful on the team, an ability to work via CAEN virtual PC is necessary, and a PC operating environment (as opposed to Mac) with personal computer equipment is desired. We are looking for highly collaborative student researchers.

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First-year undergraduates through masters graduate students are welcome to apply, and all will be encouraged to stay on the team for more than the two-semester minimum. Leadership roles are available in the lab, and experienced students will be a natural fit for these positions as their knowledge grows over time. Students apply to a specific role on a team as follows:

Medical Image Analysis (4 Students)

Preferred Skills: Process and landmark medical images (CT, MRI scans) using image processing software to quantify the 3D geometries of human skeleton and internal organs


Data Analysis and Mesh Morphing (4 Students)

Preferred Skills: Use Matlab or other programming tools to build statistical models of human geometry, and conduct mesh morphing to change a baseline model into personalized geometry targets


Finite Element Simulations (4 Students)

Preferred Skills: Conduct finite element simulations to quantify the effects from human morphology on injury outcomes

Likely Majors: ME, BME

Apprentice Researcher (6 Students)

Preferred Skills: Interest in project material, willingness to develop skills. Open to First-year and Second-year undergrad students ONLY

Likely Majors: Any

Faculty Sponsor

Monica Jones, Ph.D.

Monica Jones is an Associate Research Scientist in UMTRI’s Biosciences Group. Dr. Jones’s has a diverse background in engineering applications of physical ergonomics, anthropometry, and biomechanics that is motivated by eight years of practice as an industrial engineer. Her current research focuses on occupant accommodation and safety in vehicles, occupant anthropometry and ergonomics for vehicle design. Vulnerable populations, including child passengers and obese occupants, are a major focus. Recently, she has developed experimental platforms to enable the objective characterization of occupants’ psychophysical, kinematic and physiological response in a passenger vehicle. She is also interested in physical ergonomic assessment of workplace design and developing posture and motion simulation algorithms for digital human figure modeling software used for industrial ergonomics and military applications.

Number of Students: 15-25 students


Summer Opportunity: Summer research fellowships may be available for qualifying students.

Citizenship Requirements: This project is open to all students on campus.

IP/NDA: Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign an Intellectual Property (IP) Agreement and a non-disclosure agreement and complete PEERRS and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) training prior to participation in January 2023.

Course Substitutions: Honors

Location: In-person participation is expected.  Some team meetings and activities may be held remotely.

How to Apply

Full MDP project list & application information can be found here