Distinguished Alumni Awards

John W. Melvin

John W. Melvin
To John William Melvin in recognition of his expertise in the field of auto crash safety and dedication to saving lives in the sport of racing.

Founder and President, Tandelta, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • B.S. 1960, Engineering Mechanics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • M.S. 1962, Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Ph.D. 1964, Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 John Melvin is widely considered to be one of the foremost experts worldwide in the field of auto occupant crash protection. He has studied car safety issues and the biomechanics of injury since 1968, when he started his career at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, where he served for 17 years. He then went on to a position as senior staff research engineer at the General Motors Research Laboratories where he conducted research on head and neck injury and racing car crashes for the purpose of improving both racing car and advanced passenger car crash protection. His work led to more human-like, biomechanical crash dummies, and his team was the first to use crash recorders to study racing injuries. Since retiring from GM in 1998, Dr. Melvin has continued to focus his research on the automotive safety industry through his biomechanical research and consulting firm, Tandelta, Inc., which he established in 1977. Dr. Melvin consults with many automobile manufacturers and racecar sanctioning bodies, primarily NASCAR, and was one of the developers of the sport’s “black box,” which records data crucial to measuring the impact forces in racing car crashes. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Wayne State University where his work primarily focuses on racecar safety issues including driver seating and restraint systems for mitigation of impact trauma. Dr. Melvin holds four patents involving automotive restraint systems and has been a leading advocate for the use of the HANS® head and neck restraint device for all racecar drivers.

Dr. Melvin has received numerous awards including the Louis Schwitzer Award in 1998 for crash improvements made to Indy car racing, the Safety Engineering Excellence Award, also in 1998, from the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the John Paul Stapp Award in 1999 for the best research paper at the Stapp Car Crash Conference.