Suzanne Smyth
Suzanne Smyth, Ph.D., P.E., CFI, CVFI
Managing Engineer
Thermal Sciences
  • Warrenville

Dr.Smyth specializes in the investigation and prevention of fires and explosions in industrial, commercial, and residential settings. Dr. Smyth has conducted scientific fire and explosion cause and origin analyses involving heavy machinery, consumer appliances, on and off highway vehicles, commercial kitchen equipment, and industrial machinery. She has investigated incidents in the agricultural, transportation, construction, milling, mining, and other chemical and food processing industries. Her mechanical engineering background includes an emphasis on heat transfer and fluid mechanics with experience in these fields both experimentally and relative to numerical simulation.

Dr. Smyth has experience with materials flammability testing, forced failure testing, gaseous emission sampling and analysis, laser diagnostics, and theoretical analyses involving heat transfer and fluid mechanics. She has experience with computational fluid mechanics (CFD) software including PHAST, FLUENT, and Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS).

Prior to joining Exponent, Dr. Smyth spent two years as an engineering consultant investigating fires, explosions, and other fluid and thermal related projects. As a graduate student, her research in the Combustion Physics Laboratory involved the study of small-scale catalytically reacting flows of methane and propane. Dr. Smyth has also served as a Teaching Assistant for undergraduate laboratory courses in heat transfer and fluid dynamics. Additionally, she has experience in the production and testing of biodiesel.

CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2008
  • M.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2005
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Michigan State University, 2002

LICENSES & CERTIFICATIONS

Licensed Professional Engineer, Illinois, # 062.063138

Licensed Professional Engineer, Indiana, #PE11400703

Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator, NAFI No. 14886-7884v

Certified Fire Investigator (CFI), in accordance with the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), Certificate No. 12-060263

Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator, NAFI No. 14886-7884v

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training in accordance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120

Publications

Smyth S, Morrison D, Cox B. Application of HBSE to the fire risk of clothes dryers. Proceedings, 2015 IEEE Symposium on Product Compliance Engineering, Product Safety Engineering Society, May 2015.

Morrison DR, Ramirez JC, Smyth S, Fecke MT. Understanding and managing the often-ignored fire & explosion hazards of industrial air systems. 6th CCPS Latin American Conference on Process Safety, Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 15–17, 2014.

Ramirez JC, Smyth SA, Ogle RA. BLEVE energy and aerosol formation: An exergy analysis. ASME 2014 International Mechanical Engineering Conference & Exposition, Montreal, Canada, November 2014.

Hetrick TM, Smyth SA, Ogle RA, Ramirez JC. Evaluating the potential for flashing discharge from small engine fuel tanks. ASME 2014 International Mechanical Engineering Conference & Exposition, Montreal, Canada, November, 2014.

Ramirez, JC, Smyth SA, Ogle RA. Maximum missile velocity from boiling-liquid expanding vapor explosions (BLEVE) using exergy analysis. ASME 2012 International Mechanical
Engineering Conference & Exposition IMECE 2012, Houston, TX, November, 2012.

Ogle RA, Smyth SA, Carpenter AR. Investigation of a chlorine gas release caused by the mixing of incompatible chemicals. American Society of Civil Engineers 6th Congress on Forensic Engineering, San Francisco, CA, October 2012. 

Smyth S, Dillon S. Common causes of bus fires. SAE Technical Paper 2012-01-0989, 2012. 

Smyth S, Kyritsis DC. Experimental determination of the structure of catalytic micro-combustion flows over small-scale flat plates for methane and propane fuel. Combustion and Flame 2012; 159:802–816. 

Ogle RA, Ramirez JC, Smyth SA. Calculating the explosion energy of a BLEVE using exergy analysis. 7th Global Congress on Process Safety, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 2011 Spring Meeting, Chicago, IL, March 16, 2011. 

Ramirez J, Smyth S, Ogle R. Towards an exergy-based explosion energy model for boiling-liquid expanding-vapor explosions. ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Denver, CO, 2011. 

Ogle RA, Ramirez JC, Smyth SA. Calculating the explosion energy of a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion using exergy analysis. Process Safety Progress 2011; 31:51–54. 

Smyth SA, Christensen KT, Kyritsis DC. Intermediate Reynolds/Peclet flat plate boundary layer flows over catalytic surfaces for “micro”-combustion applications. Proceedings, 32nd Combustion Institute, 2008. 

Smyth SA, Kyritsis DC. Intermediate Reynolds number reactive boundary layers in catalytic micro-combustion flows. American Institute of Chemical Engineers Spring National Meeting, New Orleans, LA, April 6–10, 2008. 

Smyth SA, Kyritsis DC. Species and temperature measurements in intermediate Reynolds number boundary layers in micro-combustion flows. 5th US Combustion Meeting, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, CA, March 25–28, 2007. 

Smyth SA, Bijjula K, Kyritsis DC. Experimental investigation of fundamental micro-combustion flows. International Journal of Alternative Propulsion 2006; 1(2/3):294–308. 

Smyth SA, Bijjula K, Kyritsis DC. Experimental investigation of mesoscale boundary layer flows over catalytic surfaces. Western States Section of the Combustion Institute Fall Technical Meeting, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, October 17–18, 2005.


Professional Affiliations

The Combustion Institute

American Institute of Chemical Engineers—AIChE

Society of Automotive Engineers (Member, Fire Safety Committee)

National Fire Protection Association

  • Principal member NFPA Technical Committee on Industrial Trucks

International Association of Arson Investigators -- IAAI

National Association of Fire Investigators 

Pi Tau Sigma (Engineering Honor Society)

Phi Kappa Phi (Honor Society)


Project Experience

Selected Heavy Equipment Project Experience

Bulldozer fire at a wood processing facility
A bulldozer was found with a small fire and missing its operator at a wood processing facility. It was discovered that the operator had left the cab after activating the fire suppression system and was fatally injured a distance away from the vehicle’s final position. Dr. Smyth’s origin and cause investigation of the fire on the bulldozer revealed smoking materials buried within an accumulation of wood debris. Alternative causes including a patched fuel tank and effects from a previous hydraulic fluid fire were eliminated.

Fork truck fire at a metal processing facility
A fire and explosion involving a fork truck at a metal processing facility occurred. Dr. Smyth conducted an origin and cause investigation to determine the source of the explosion. The cause was found to be a malfunction of an induction furnace positioned above the vehicle that discharged molten metal onto the propane tank of the truck causing an explosion and subsequent fire.

Tractor with aftermarket man-lift
A fire involving a tractor occurred while it was shredding a field of hail-damaged corn. During Dr. Smyth’s investigation she discovered that an aftermarket man-lift had been added to the tractor to assist the elderly farmer in accessing the cab. The man-lift installation included inappropriately routed wiring apparently connected directly to the battery, which had evidence of electrical faulting. The role of the aftermarket man-lift could not be eliminated as a potential cause of the fire.

Selected Fire and Explosion Project Experience

Explosion and fire at a paper mill
An explosion of an air receiver tank occurred and ignited a large fire at a paper mill. As the lead Exponent investigator on scene, Dr. Smyth provided extensive documentation of the scene and demolition activities, conducted numerous employee interviews, and worked with contractors to ensure proper removal of evidence. Exponent provided guidance to the mill management on improving their processes, internal practices, and safety management programs.

Alleged consumer product residential fires
Dr. Smyth assisted with the investigation of residential fires related to a suite of consolidated and class action lawsuits involving over 100 individual cases of alleged product failure. She coordinated a team of Exponent engineers to investigate origin and cause, analyze internal design documents, and produce multiple expert reports.

Explosion at a grain processing facility
The cause of an explosion of a multi-story building at a grain processing facility was investigated by Exponent. Dr. Smyth acted as the lead scene investigator and worked closely with contractors to collect over 400 artifacts throughout five severely damaged floors. She also interacted closely with mill personnel to create process diagrams of the damaged area, interview witnesses, and understand their internal practices.


CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2008
  • M.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2005
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Michigan State University, 2002

LICENSES & CERTIFICATIONS

Licensed Professional Engineer, Illinois, # 062.063138

Licensed Professional Engineer, Indiana, #PE11400703

Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator, NAFI No. 14886-7884v

Certified Fire Investigator (CFI), in accordance with the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), Certificate No. 12-060263

Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator, NAFI No. 14886-7884v

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training in accordance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120