About IFSI Research

Research Staff

IFSI's research projects are carried out by experienced scientists, whose primary role at the Institute is for fire suppression and fire safety studies. 

Dr. Gavin Horn, Research Program Director has led the research team since 2004. His research interests lie in the areas of first responder technology development, firefighter health and safety research, material testing and design, infrared imaging and nondestructive evaluation. He holds a Senior Research Scientist position with the Advanced Materials Testing & Evaluation Laboratory at Illinois where he carries out static strength and fatigue testing of materials and the development of nondestructive evaluation technologies for industries ranging from aerospace to microelectronics. Gavin has published many peer-reviewed journal articles and given more than 40 presentations at professional conferences around the world. 

Dr. Horn has been awarded First Place at the Society of Experimental Mechanics International Student Speaking Competition, an M&IE Alumni Board Teaching Fellowship, and has been named to the UIUC "List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students" four times. 

He holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois. He also serves as a volunteer firefighter/engineer with the Savoy (IL) Fire Department, where he was named the 2011 Firefighter of the Year.

Dr. Denise Smith, Exercise Physiology, focuses on the relationship between heat stress and cardiovascular function. A significant portion of her research focuses on the cardiovascular strain associated with firefighting activity. She has published several articles on the effects of firefighting on cardiovascular function, coagulatory potential, immune function and hormonal status. Dr. Smith has also conducted several laboratory studies designed to identify specific components of firefighting activity (work performed, heat stress, sympathetic nervous stimulation) that are responsible for specific physiological responses to the combined stress of firefighting. 

Dr. Smith received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1990 and her Masters of Science degree in 1985. Her undergraduate work was completed at Houghton College.

Richard Kesler, Research Scientist focuses on biomechanics, health, and physical performance, specifically examining the physiological demands of firefighting activity and the impact of firefighting equipment on the firefighter. He has examined the effects of test environment on firefighter gait and balance and developed a new method for the collection of metabolic data during simulated firefighting activities. Richard is the head of physical training for the Illinois Fire Service Institute’s Basic Operations Firefighter Academy.

Richard is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a Master's of Science degree in Bioengineering and is currently pursuing his PhD in Kinesiology, examining the effects of firefighting on muscle protein remodeling, repair, and recovery. He serves as a volunteer firefighter/engineer with the Savoy Fire Department.

Dr. Terry von Thaden, Human Factors Research Scientist, focuses on identifying and incorporating human factors research into current and new research activities. Her research involves distributed information practice in safety and time critical environments including first response, aviation, medical, security, and transportation systems. Dr. von Thaden's work investigates human factors affecting risk assessment; individual and group decision processes; information exchange and crisis management, among other areas. 

Dr. von Thaden holds affiliate appointments in the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Human Factors Division, Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, and Psychology. She currently serves on numerous Government-Industry working groups. 

Dr. von Thaden earned her Ph.D. in Information Science from the University of Illinois.

Hannah Newman, Research Program Manager, started at IFSI Research in February 2018.  She earned her Bachelor's of Science degree in Exercise Science from Bowling Green State University.



The IFSI Research team works with a number of collaborators across the University of Illinois campus and with researchers at other organizations around the world. 

Dr. Steve Petruzzello - Associate Professor - University of Illinois Kinesiology and Community Health 

Dr. Bo Fernhall - Dean, Applied Health Sciences University of Illinois Chicago. 

Dr. Liz Hsiao-Wecksler - Associate Professor - University of Illinois Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering. 

Dr. Robert Motl - Associate Professor - University of Illinois Kinesiology and Community Health department. 

Dr. Greg Freund - Professor - University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences. 

Dr. Karl Rosegren - Northwestern University Department of Psychology, Evanston, IL. 

Dr. Dimitrios Kyritsis - University of Illinois Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering.

Dr. Nick Burd - Assistant Professor - University of Illinois Kinesiology and Community Health