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Mechanical Engineering student named 2011 NCAA Woman of the Year

Laura Barito, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware, has been named "Woman of the Year" by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Barito was honored for her academic and athletic excellence, community service and leadership throughout her undergraduate years at Stevens Institute, a Division III school in Hoboken, N.J., where she holds NCAA titles in swimming (50-yard freestyle) and track (400-meter hurdles), according to an NCAA press release.

She was selected from a pool of 142 conference nominees, derived from a record 471 nominations by NCAA-member colleges and universities. The Arkansas native accepted the prestigious NCAA honor at the 21st annual NCAA Woman of the Year awards program earlier this month, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

"Laura excelled in engineering, swimming and track at Stevens. You simply cannot do what she has done without a very special combination of raw talent, energy and motivation," said David L. Burris, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and Barito's advisor.

Barito is currently pursuing her doctorate in mechanical engineering and bio-mechanics at UD, where her research allows her to combine her interests in athletics and human movement.

Using recently developed laboratory methods, Barito studies the relationship between cartilage structure, load bearing and lubrication to understand the role of micro scale surface damage in the initiation and progression of osteoarthritis. Her ultimate goal is to help people who suffer from osteoarthritis by promoting early detection, intervention and treatment. She said she also hopes to help those in the later stages of osteoarthritis by improving the quality of artificial knee implants.

Barito, a 22-time All-American in swimming and track and two-time NCAA national champion, is the ninth swimmer to be named NCAA Woman of the Year since the program's inception in 1991. She serves as an assistant coach of UD's swimming and diving teams. She is currently training to compete in the U.S. national swimming championship this December in order to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials next summer.

She is a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honor Society; and is a recipient of the UD College of Engineering's Helwig fellowship.

About the Helwig fellowship

The Helwig Mechanical Engineering Fellowship was established in 2009 by David R. Helwig '73 and Constance A. Helwig '73. David R. Helwig, a 1973 mechanical engineering graduate of UD, is the owner of Helwig Consulting Services and serves on the UD College of Engineering Advisory Council. He received the Presidential Citation for Outstanding Achievement in 1993, the Engineering Alumni Association's Outstanding Alumni Award in 1995 and the College of Engineering Outstanding Alumni award in 2000. Constance A. Helwig earned her bachelor's in business and economics at UD in 1973.

- Article by Karen B. Roberts

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