Dr Naomi Deakin has won the 2018 Watkins Scholarship, which offers a funded research position with the Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety, the research partner of the FIA.
Named after motor sport safety pioneer Professor Sid Watkins, the Scholarship offers a one-year role with the Global Institute, with the FIA, FIA Foundation and the Global Institute jointly funding the position.
Deakin, who is a Clinical Research Associate in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Cambridge, was selected by a panel of experts consisting of Formula One Managing Director Ross Brawn, German Motor Sport Federation Medical Director Michael Scholz and Global Institute General Manager Research Laurent Mekies. She becomes the first doctor to win the Scholarship, with the two previous winners being engineers.
Following her studies into concussion in motor sport, Deakin is set to undertake and support further research into the subject for the Global Institute and its partners. She has been involved in motor sport medicine for a number of years, having worked with the Silverstone Circuit and the British Touring Car Championship.
Deakin will continue to be based in Cambridge but will attend research meetings in Geneva and Paris. As part of the Scholarship, she will continue her research into concussion and utilise the Global Institute’s engineering expertise to provide important insight into the findings.
Deakin said: “What the Watkins Scholarship will do is allow me to create a vital bridge between motor sport medicine and the engineering aspect of the sport, as one of the things we really want to be able to understand is what the threshold value is for concussion. There is some excellent work on frontal head protection systems and helmet design which have happened in recent years, but what we have seen in terms of injuries is that we have moved from very severe traumatic brain injuries towards more mild brain injury, which is where concussion is.
“As we are moving towards that lower end of this spectrum, we really don’t understand what sort of forces, be it their magnitude, or their direction, or the rotation, that actually cause the injury. So what this project will hopefully achieve is to help provide insight into that engineering data and link it to the medical data that we collect.”
Professor Gérard Saillant, Chairman of the Global Institute’s Research Working Group and President of the FIA Medical Commission, said: “Dr Deakin will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our research work. Her proposed studies on concussion are an excellent example of our multi-disciplinary approach, combining the work of doctors and engineers to improve motor sport safety.”
Luc Argand, the Global Institute Chairman, said: “We are delighted to welcome Naomi to the Global Institute as our third Watkins Scholarship recipient. She will be a true asset to our team as we continue our research to improve motor sport safety worldwide.”
Last year’s winner of the Watkins Scholarship, Nikil Abraham, has worked on several high-profile projects, including safety developments in Formula One, World Rally and other FIA Championships.