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. 

Richard Kesler,

Deputy Director of Research Programs, focuses on biomechanics, health, and physical performance, specifically examining the physiological demands of firefighting activity and the impact of firefighting on the firefighter.

He has examined the effects of the firefighter’s environment and breathing apparatus size on gait and balance and has developed a novel method for the collection of metabolic data during simulated firefighting activities.

Richard serves on the National Fire Protection Association Fundamentals of Fire Control Within a Structure Utilizing Fire Dynamics technical committee which facilitates NFPA 1700: Guide for Structural Firefighting. He is also a member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Special Operations Protective Clothing and Equipment serving numerous NFPA Standards.

Richard is a physical training instructor for the Illinois Fire Service Institute’s Basic Operations Firefighter Academy and teaches in numerous other fire service classes.

Richard is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a Master of Science degree in Bioengineering and is currently pursuing his PhD in Kinesiology, examining the effects of firefighting on physiological response of the muscle and inflammation. He serves as a volunteer Assistant Chief/EMT with the Savoy Fire Department.

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. Gavin Horn, Research Scientist, focuses on 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.

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.

Kristen Massey, Research Project Manager, started at IFSI Research in April 2021.  She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois.



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