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Ohio University announces winner of $500,000 international engineering prize

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 21, 2007) -- Ohio University and the National Academy of Engineering yesterday announced the recipient of the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, one of the top three engineering prizes in the world and the only of its caliber endowed at a university. The $500,000 award was created at Ohio University by a late alumnus and his wife.

Yuan-Cheng Fung was awarded the 2007 Russ Prize on Tuesday, Feb. 20, in Washington, D.C.Regarded as the father of modern biomechanics, Yuan-Cheng "Bert" Fung of La Jolla, Calif., was recognized for his work with human tissue engineering. His research contributed to the development of the entire field of automotive safety design, as well as artificial skin, personal body armor for military and emergency personnel, prosthetic devices, and other breakthroughs that save and improve millions of lives.

The National Academy of Engineering presented the prize at a gala in Washington, D.C., Tuesday evening.

Comparable to the Nobel Prize, the biennial award was created by the late Fritz Russ, a 1942 electrical engineering graduate of Ohio University, and his wife, Dolores. They established the prize in 1999 with a multimillion-dollar endowment to Ohio University to promote engineering, encourage engineering education, and recognize achievement that improves the human condition.

Ohio University advises the National Academy of Engineering on the pool of nominees, who represent today's most accomplished researchers. Previous Russ Prize winners include the inventors of the first human heart pacemakers, kidney dialysis, and biosensors that enable open heart surgery and diabetes patients to self-monitor glucose levels.

"Fung's bioengineering work enabled the medical, biological and engineering fields to collaborate the last several decades," said selection committee member Richard Robe, dean emeritus of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University. "This collaboration has produced direct and tangible benefits to the health, safety and quality of life for our world today," Robe said.

Fung, who received his engineering degrees in China in the early 1940s, called the award a great honor. "I was very surprised and very proud that such a great prize would come my way," Fung said.

Today, all automobile crash tests rely on Fung's fundamental studies about how human tissue responds to impact. "Since the widespread application of quantitative biomechanics into motor vehicle restraint systems design in the early 1980s, we have experienced about a 30 percent reduction in motor vehicle fatalities," said Robert C. Lange, executive director of structure and safety integration for General Motors.

Also the creator of engineered blood vessels, Fung contributed directly to the development of artificial skin, which speeds healing for victims of burns and other major tissue trauma. His insight has enabled our nation's military forces to develop safer nonlethal weapons. In addition, the principles of biomechanics that he developed have improved the effectiveness and longevity of orthopedic devices, especially those used to treat ankle sprains.

The 1945 immigrant from China hopes his work will encourage interest in biomechanics. "The field is a puzzle that is challenging and fascinating and full of room," Fung said. "My work is just turning the first page (of biomechanics); the book is yet to be written."

Fung spent the first 20 years of his career making significant contributions in aeronautics and helped define the field of aeroelasticity. In the 1960s, he began applying his knowledge of force, motion, flow, stress and strength from aeronautics to better understand how the body works, and in 1966 established one of the first bioengineering programs in the country at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where he is now a professor emeritus of bioengineering.

During a distinguished engineering career, Fritz Russ helped lead breakthroughs in television technology, atomic weapons testing systems, engine controls, aircraft weaponry, space flight and medical technology.

He began his career at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., where one of his projects was to design data collection equipment for the first U.S. post-war nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1946. In 1955, the Russes opened Systems Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio. The company became one of the largest independent engineering and high-tech research firms of its kind and had grown to 1,000 employees when it was merged with Arvin Industries in 1987.

"Fritz dedicated a lifetime to engineering. Both he and Dolores have had a profound influence on the profession at national and state levels, not to mention at Ohio University," said Dennis Irwin, dean of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology. "To this day, Dolores continues to demonstrate remarkable commitment to the College," Irwin said.

More information on the Russ Prize is available at www.ohio.edu/russprize.

Educating well-rounded professionals with both technical and team-project skills, the Russ College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees across the traditional engineering spectrum and in technology disciplines such as aviation, computer science, and industrial technology. Strategic research areas include bioengineering, energy and the environment, and smart civil infrastructure. Named for alumnus Fritz Russ and his wife Dolores, the Russ College is home of the Russ Prize, one of the top three engineering prizes in the world. For more information, visit www.ohio.edu/engineering.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is an independent, nonprofit institution. Its members consist of the nation's premier engineers, who are elected by their peers for seminal contributions to engineering. The academy provides leadership and guidance to government on the application of engineering resources to social, economic, and security problems. Established in 1964, NAE operates under the congressional charter granted to the National Academy of Sciences in 1863.

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Media Contact: Russ College Director of External Relations Colleen Girton at 740-593-1488 or Director of Research Communications Andrea Gibson at 740-597-2166 or gibsona@ohio.edu

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