The UPS (United Parcel Service) Foundation has awarded a $40,000 grant to the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.

The funds will be used to support doctoral students in industrial and systems engineering’s Human Factors Engineering/ Ergonomics graduate program with a research focus on truck driver safety and training, vehicular safety and design, aircraft pilot safety and cockpit design, and ergonomics of commercial and personal vehicles. This is the 13th consecutive year that the UPS Foundation has supported the department with grant funding.

“A major benefit of the UPS grant is that it enables our Human Factors Engineering/Ergonomics option to attract and retain graduate students of the highest caliber and to do cutting-edge research in applied human factors engineering” said John Casali, the John Grado Professor in the industrial and systems engineering department.

Casali made his first proposal for the UPS grant in 1996, and since has served as the foundation’s coordinator at Virginia Tech. UPS since has awarded a total $611,000 to the College of Engineering under Casali’s fellowship proposals. His relationship with UPS also has resulted in representatives from the corporate giant serving on the department’s advisory board since the mid-1990s.

The dissertation year fellowship program has supported approximately 25 doctoral students toward degree completion and also has funded construction and equipping of an audio/visual learning laboratory in Whittemore Hall on the Virginia Tech campus. Among the notable doctoral projects supported by UPS was a study by former student Brian Valimont on noise reduction communication headsets for pilots. Hundreds of hours of experimentation involving instrument-rated pilots and an assortment of headset models was conducted on campus in a flight simulator, Casali said. The results of this study have been presented at three conferences and soon will be published in an industry trade journal.

Based in Atlanta, the UPS Foundation identifies specific areas in nonprofit effectiveness, economic and global literacy, encouraging diversity, community safety and environmental sustainability in issuing its grants. In 2007, the most recent year for available figures, UPS distributed $46.4 million dollars worldwide in grants.

Casali obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology in 1977, and master’s and doctorate degrees in industrial engineering and operations research in 1979 and 1982, respectively, all from Virginia Tech. After graduation, he joined the College of Engineering faculty, was promoted to full professor after nine years, and from 1996 to 2002, served as the head of the industrial and systems engineering department.

During his chairmanship, the department rose to its highest national level on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of undergraduate industrial and systems engineering programs, and became endowed as the Grado Department. He founded and directs the Auditory Systems Laboratory and co-directs the Vehicle and Aircraft Simulation Laboratory at Virginia Tech. He served as president of the National Hearing Conservation Association in 2007 and was named the International Outstanding Hearing Conservationist in February 2009.

IMAGE INFORMATION: John Casali, the John Grado Professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, has helped ensure funding by UPS for the college every year since 1996. The latest grant is for $40,000.

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