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Dr. Corina Sandu Wins FISITA 2023 Medal

Posted: October 18, 2023

Winning the 2023 FISITA Medal is a big deal, but for SAE International contributor and Fellow Corina Sandu, Ph.D., it’s all in a day’s work.

The FISITA Medal is one of mobility’s highest recognitions, awarded annually to individuals who have made great contributions to automotive and mobility engineering. Dr. Sandu is the first woman to receive this award since its inception in 1970.

The ability to give back guided Sandu throughout her career, culminating in this impressive achievement.  

It’s what has carried her through her career, educating the next generation of engineers as a specialist in Terramechanics, Multibody, and Vehicle Systems, as well as serving as an Associate Department Head of Graduate Studies at Virginia Tech. It’s what has motivated her on her trajectory to become President of the International Society for Terrain Vehicle Systems, where her current research pulls in her students to study of off-road vehicles, specifically regarding mobility of wheeled and tracked vehicles on unprepared terrain.

And it’s what brought her to SAE.

“I started with participating in SAE COMVEC as a member of the Chassis and Suspension Committee—now called Chassis Design and Vehicle Dynamics Committee—but also in the SAE World Congress—now  called WCX. SAE activities not only helped me better understand what the automotive industry means, especially regarding trends, but they also brought my contributions to the Community, and helped me serve in many different capacities,” Dr. Sandu said.

After her initial involvement with SAE events, Dr. Sandu sought more opportunities to share industry knowledge with her peers. In 2010, she became Editor-in-Chief for the SAE Journal of Commercial Vehicles. At that time the journal was still growing, and under Dr. Sandu’s guidance, recently earned its first impact factor—a metric that judges a journal’s importance by the number of times it is cited in other works.

“We had been indexed for some time, but the impact factor really opened the opportunity for people from universities around the world to target and access our journal. It’s very appreciated in academia to have an impact factor,” she said.

Beyond the fulfilment her leadership positions have provided Dr. Sandu in her own career, her SAE involvement creates opportunities for her to help her students. She emphasizes the importance of networking with industry and underlines how SAE International allows contributors to learn from one another and advance mobility.

“I encourage my graduate students to become SAE members, and most of them sign up as soon as they join my group. After they graduate, I try to get them involved in the journal’s review process, as well as in helping organize sessions at SAE events” Dr. Sandu said.

As she considers her responsibilities as a mentor in passing on technical knowledge, there’s also a facet around identity and opportunity that Dr. Sandu must consider—particularly the gender disparity in the mobility industry that traditionally has unbalanced male representation.

Dr. Sandu looks to another woman who achieved a mobility industry first—former SAE President Dr. Rodica Baranescu—as one of her key inspirations.

“When she became the first woman president of SAE in 2000, that was a very significant moment for me,” Dr. Sandu said.

She hopes to inspire others in a similar way that Baranescu did for her. As Dr. Sandu continues working as both a researcher and educator, she passes the baton to the next generation of engineers.

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said. “It's not about working for the award; it’s about working on what you know you can do and where you can make an impact.”