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. Farzaneh Masoud, Director of Reasearch, earned her PhD from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in May 2012, from the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. Dr. Masoud has a broad background in molecular, cell, and developmental biology as well as mammalian reproductive biology, and regenerative medicine. Her doctoral research concerned identifying factors that can cause mesothelial cells to undergo Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition (EMT). The EMT process is a developmental phenomenon that underlies metastatic cancers.

Prior to joining IFSI as the Director of Research, Dr. Masoud worked at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) as a project manager but quickly moved on to develop the Strategic Research and Proposal Development office and has served as an Interdisciplinary Research Development Officer. Dr. Masoud was responsible for leading pre-proposal coordination for large and strategic grant opportunities that bring together NCSA staff campus faculty, and industry. She was responsible for identifying pertinent interdisciplinary grants and personnel and facilitating proposal development and communications among the team. Dr. Masoud has extensive experience in working with a diverse range of faculty, staff, and students and has contributed to the climate of inclusivity at NCSA.

Prior to joining NCSA, Dr. Masoud worked at The University of Illinois Computational Science and Engineering (CS&E) in the College of Engineering as a Research Coordinator. She promoted and implemented the research objectives of CSE. Dr. Masoud was responsible for attracting and maintaining external research funding and forming interdisciplinary teams of researchers on the UI campus to collaborate together and pursue funding opportunities. In these endeavors, she worked closely with the University of Illinois CSE faculty and affiliates. She also works closely with the University of Illinois Campus research funding programs along with the private, federal, and state sectors of research funding programs.

Previously Dr. Masoud worked as an assistant director and administrator of Midwest Stem Cell Based Tissue Regeneration Consortium for the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and UIUC. She initiated the development of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary working groups, coordinating the working groups with potential internal and external funding resources.

As a visiting scholar in department of Institute for Genomic Biology, Dr. Masoud participated in organizing a multidisciplinary group of scientist developing R01, R21 and R03 proposals. She was involved in designing and coordinating the NIH proposal for a multidisciplinary team in regenerative medicine, stem cell biology, biomedical and mechanical sciences and engineering. She assisted in the successful completion of a proposal for Future Interdisciplinary Research Explorations (FIRE) from College of ACES.

Prior to The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Masoud was employed as a research associate in a bio-tech start-up, EpiGenX in Santa Barbara, CA. At EpiGenX she developed and utilized a high throughput enzyme and cell based screen to discover novel antibiotics. 

Dr. Dac Nguyen, Research Scientist, earned his PhD from Clemson University, South Carolina in 2021 with research on the quantification of embers/firebrands at the Wildland Urban Interface community from a wildfire. He also obtained a master's degree in building fire safety and risk engineering from Victoria University, Australia.

Dr Dac Nguyen has a multidisciplinary background on fire dynamics, fluid mechanics, wind engineering and CFD (computational fluid mechanics) simulation. He has conducted several experiments in an atmospheric boundary layer wind tunnel to study ember accumulation. He also carried out a study of fire development in a deep enclosure with both laboratory experiments and Fire Dynamics Simulator.

Dr. Neda Seyedsadjadi, Research Scientist, joined IFSI from the College of ACES at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she led several human subject research projects as a Postdoctoral Fellow.  Neda earned her PhD from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, in Physiology and Pharmacology.  As a Medical Research Scientist, Neda has extensive experience in designing and conducting human research studies and developing approaches for early identification of disease abnormalities.  Neda aims to apply her expertise to promote the wellness of first-responders.

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.

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.

Maddy Szamocki, Graduate Researcher, earned her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2023. She is a master’s candidate at the University of Illinois in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Psychology. Her research interests include the intersection between exercise behavior and resiliency in tactical athletes under occupational stress and how prior military service affects tactical performance and resiliency in firefighter candidates.

Jason Rennert, Program manager, ensures the completion of research project deliverables, including project plans, research schedules, progress reports, and investigational applications.  Jason facilitates partnerships across various research constituencies and assists research scientists in lab and field site set up, data collection and demobilization.  Jason has an extensive background in leadership and education.  Prior to joining IFSI, Jason spent several years teaching a variety of science disciplines at District #301, Tuscola IL.



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