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Release: Nov. 5, 1999

L.D. Chen named director of National Advanced Driving Simulator

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa has named L.D. Chen, professor of mechanical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) project, effective immediately.

Chen, who has served as interim NADS director since October 1998, was selected following a nationwide search. NADS, formally scheduled to open next summer, is expected to become the world's leading center for driving simulation research, including the study of human factors associated with both on-road and off-road vehicle dynamics and driving safety.

UI President Mary Sue Coleman said that NADS, and Chen's role in the project, will be an important part of the university's research effort in the next decade. "I welcome Professor Chen's leadership in establishing NADS as the preeminent research facility of its kind in the nation and the world. NADS promises to further enhance the reputation of the University of Iowa," she said.

UI Vice President for Research David J. Skorton, whose office oversees NADS, said that Chen's research background and leadership experience will make him an excellent project leader. "I am very pleased that L.D. Chen will direct this new national research resource," Skorton said. "His commitment to excellence, as demonstrated through his outstanding academic and administrative skills, along with the superb staff of the program, will ensure the success of NADS."

Currently under construction at the University of Iowa's Oakdale Research Park, NADS will be the world's most advanced driving simulator for researching safety issues, such as the effects of medical conditions on drivers, and designing safer highways and vehicles without the need to construct expensive prototypes.

Researchers from medicine, engineering, computer science and other fields will conduct interdisciplinary research aimed at reducing the estimated 90 percent of all vehicle crashes in which human behavior is a factor. NADS is useful to researchers from government, industry and universities for the study of such phenomena as the effects of fatigue, aging, medical conditions, impairments, vehicle engineering and highway design on driver performance. The $56 million project includes a $44 million federal government contract with TRW Inc. of San Diego to construct the simulator; and UI and state contributions, including the building and software, of about $12 million.

Chen, who served as chair of the department of mechanical engineering from 1992 until 1998, joined the UI faculty in 1982. He currently is involved in several automotive-related research projects, including one funded by Honda to develop computer simulation techniques for predicting fuel cell performance and another funded by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a laboratory for basic and applied research on airbags. The airbag project is directed jointly by Chen and P. Barry Butler, interim dean of the College of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering.

Chen is also principal investigator of a four-year, $490,000 NASA-funded project to design jet engines to burn cleaner and more reliably. His investigation, called ELF (for Enclosed Laminar Flames), flew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in November 1997. Chen and his colleagues are studying data gathered during the mission with the hope that his findings will help prevent flame-out in jet engines and even make the flames in gas fireplaces and furnaces more stable.

Prior to coming to Iowa, Chen served as assistant professor and research associate at Penn State University, where he received his doctorate in 1981 and his master's degree in 1979, both in mechanical engineering. He earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from National Taiwan University in 1974. He is the author or co-author of more than 50 professional journal articles and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society for Engineering Education and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), through a nationwide competition conducted by the National Science Foundation under an interagency agreement with NHTSA, selected the UI as the site for NADS in 1992 and is developing it as a cooperative venture with the university. NADS was originally conceived by Edward Haug, Carver Distinguished Professor, who is currently engaged in NADS research program development and a phased retirement program at the university.