Illinois Fire Service Institute


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 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 the biomechanics studies of firefighter gait and balance and support biomechanics analyses of cardiovascular function changes due to firefighting.

While working toward his Bachelor's degree, Kesler co-founded Bump (initially Illini Prosthetic Technologies), a non-profit organization committed to developing low-cost prosthetic devices for those that have limited healthcare in developing countries. In his Master's thesis, in collaboration with IFSI, Kesler 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 a 2013 graduate of the University of Illinois with a Master's of Science degree in bioengineering.

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.

11 Gerty Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820
Driving Directions
Contact Us
Phone: (217) 333-3800
            (800) 437-5819
Fax: (217) 244-6790
Phone: (217) 333-8925
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Social Media

You are encouraged to use this site for individual educational purposes only; however copy and/or reprinting of any materials and photographs without authorization is strictly prohibited. Please obtain permission by contacting

© 2019 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois