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Release: May 1, 2001

Three professors honored for contributions to UI College of Engineering

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Three University of Iowa professors recently received College of Engineering awards for their individual contributions to research, teaching and service.

The three, who were recognized May 1 by Dean P. Barry Butler at the College's annual faculty/staff awards luncheon, are: Lea-Der Chen, professor of mechanical engineering, for service; Witold F. Krajewski, professor of civil and environmental engineering, for research; and Tonya Peeples, assistant professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, for teaching.

Chen, who joined the UI faculty in 1982, served as chair of the department of mechanical engineering from1992 until 1998. Since 1999, he has been director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS), designed 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. 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. Chen is also principal investigator of a four-year, $490,000 NASA-funded project to design jet engines to burn cleaner and more reliably.

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. From 1999 to the present, Chen has served as a consultant to Honda R&D Americas.

In presenting the service award, Butler noted that Chen's long record of service to the department of mechanical engineering, in addition to his 1992-98 service as chair, includes serving on undergraduate and graduate committees and developing undergraduate laboratories. In addition, he served as chair of the 1997 internal review of the college, chair of the Dean's Ad Hoc Committee on Curriculum 2000 during the 1999-2000 academic year, and as a member of the committee for education reform within the college.

Krajewski, who came to the UI in 1987, is a researcher in the Hydrometeorology Group within the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research (IIHR) and an internationally known researcher in the field of remote sensing of precipitation. His research experience includes water resources systems planning and development and water quality modeling. His active areas of research are radar hydrometeorology, stochastic hydrology and remote sensing.

Krajewski received his master's degree and doctorate in environmental engineering in 1976 and 1980, respectively, from the Technical University of Warsaw, Poland. Prior to joining the University of Iowa, he was a postdoctoral research associate of the National Research Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 1981 to 1984 and a research hydrologist at the Hydrologic Research Laboratory of the National Weather Service from 1985 to 1987. At the UI, he has supervised more than 15 doctoral students, published more than 80 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and served as principal or co-principal investigator on more than 50 grants and projects attracting some $6 million in funding from such agencies as NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). His many professional activities and memberships include associate editor for the American Society of Civil Engineers ASCE Journal of Hydrologic Engineering and membership in the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society.

Butler said that the research award, as presented to Krajewski, includes a strong element of leadership, since he is one of the best-known researchers in the fields of remote sensing, uncertainty assessment and hydrometeorology. He is considered the leading expert in developing algorithms for quantitative precipitation estimation using weather radar observations.

Peeples, who came to the UI in 1995, is a researcher in the field of organisms that thrive in extreme environments, including the ocean floor. Such organisms are of interest, in part, due to their production of highly stable enzymes and in the development of innovative bioprocesses. In the case of a domain of microbes known as "Archaea," the fact that individual organisms may live at temperatures near boiling or under high pressures in the presence of high salt or in highly acidic environments makes them potentially useful in biocatalysis. Her work also involves developing environmentally relevant biotechnology based on the ability of specific microorganisms to degrade pollutants. Her work with microbes, involving the design and evaluation of new biocatalytic systems, provides great learning opportunities for graduate and undergraduate chemical engineers.

Prior to coming to the UI, Peeples earned her bachelor's degree in 1988 from North Carolina State University and her doctorate in 1995 from Johns Hopkins University.

In presenting the teaching award, Butler noted Peeples' leadership in developing and implementing new teaching methods, including the creation of new laboratory experiments and open-ended design problems for courses that previously relied only on lectures. He also noted her creation of a new graduate course, Biotechnology of Extremophiles, blending topics from current literature in the field with examples from her own research and from the research of experts around the world. Her service to local and national educational committees includes: panelist, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) 1998 Leadership Conference; panelist, Society of Women Engineers (SWE) 1999 High School Conference; advisor, SWE, 1997 to present; and member, minority affairs committee, American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).