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Release: Immediate

UI appoints interim director of National Advanced Driving Simulator project

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa has named L.D. Chen, professor of mechanical engineering, to serve as interim director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) project, effective Oct. 1. He succeeds NADS founder Edward Haug, Carver Distinguished Professor, who will focus on NADS research program development as he begins a five-year phased retirement program. A nationwide search to fill the NADS directorship will be initiated within the year.

Currently under construction and scheduled to open in May of 2000 at the University of Iowa's Oakdale Research Park, NADS, a university facility, 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. 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.

David Skorton, UI vice president for research, said that NADS would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of Haug and that Chen's research background and leadership experience make him an excellent choice to guide the project through its next phase.

"Ed Haug supplied the original vision, expertise and long, devoted effort to make NADS a reality. We are now fortunate that L.D. Chen, a superb academician and administrator, will assume interim directorship, insuring a smooth transition for this important, new national research resource," Skorton said.

Chen, who has served as chair of mechanical engineering since 1993, 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 P. Barry Butler, associate dean of engineering and professor of mechanical engineering, and Chen.

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 last November. 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, selected the UI as the site for NADS in 1992 and is developing it as a cooperative venture with the university. Researchers from medicine, engineering and other fields will conduct interdisciplinary research, much of it aimed at reducing the estimated 90 percent of all vehicle crashes in which human behavior is a factor. NADS planners hope to attract researchers from government, industry and universities to study such things as the effects of fatigue, aging, medical conditions, vehicle engineering and highway design on driver performance.