Internationally Recognized Areas of Computer Simulation Excellence

The University of Iowa has a long history of creating and developing a spectrum of computer simulation on its Iowa City campus. Through a fertile environment of interdisciplinary research collaboration, advanced computer simulation associated with human factors, digital humans, vehicle and road dynamics, operator performance, and patient response thrives at the University.

You will find researchers from Engineering, Computer Science, Medicine, Dentistry, and Public Policy sharing their expertise in a multitude of challenging projects – focused on solving complex issues associated with how humans interact with machines and technology. We invite you to examine these key research areas, determine how they might assist in approaching your specific problem or issue, and contact us for more in-depth dialogue.

Advanced Manufacturing Technology Group


Tim Marler, co-director
Ibrahim Ozbolat, co-director

The Advaned Manufacturing Technology (AMTech) group conducts cutting-edge research and development aimed at advancing and exploring next-generation manufacturing technologies, with an initial focus on model-based manufacturing and bio-manufacturing.  With diverse backgrounds in CAD/CAM, electrical engineering, optimization, electronics and automotive manufacturing, bio-manufacturing, modeling and simulation, digital human modeling, and computer science, the growing AMTech group pursues a variety of novel projects in an effort to design, create, and test components, systems, and processes both virtually and physically.  These projects range from digital manufacturing to simulation and modeling for electronic manufacturing to biomanufacturing of tissue and organ replacement parts.

Anesthesia Simulator

Johann Cutkomp, simulator operations manager, at

The Patient Simulator Center, in the Department of Anesthesia at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, provides a safe place to practice putting basic knowledge and skills to use in the delivery of quality anesthesia care. These Medical knowledge training sessions focus on both routine and highly unusal anesthetic cases.

BioMechanics of Soft Tissues (BioMOST)

Madhavan Raghavan, research engineer
Jia Lu, research engineer

The mission of the BioMechanics of Soft Tissues (BioMOST) division is to contribute to the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the soft tissue structures in the human body by drawing upon principles in engineering mechanics. The division employs biomechanical experimentation, mathematical modeling, and computational simulations to address issues of interest in the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.

Dentistry Simulation Clinic

Cathy Solow, associate dean

Helps first- and second-year students make a smoother transition from the preclinical to clinical setting. It allows seniors to refine their skills for clinical board/licensure exams and it provides a more realistic environment for practitioners taking continuing education courses. Eighty operatories are clustered in modules that can accommodate right- and left-handed students. Each operatory has a mannequin with a realistic tooth model and jaws that function very much like a human’s.

Hank Virtual Environments Lab

Joseph Kearney, co-director
Jodie Plumert, co-director

The Hank Virtual Environments Lab focuses on using virtual environments to study human perception and action. There are two main foci of this research program. One is understanding how children and adults negotiate traffic-filled intersections in our virtual environment. The other is understanding how people perceive and adapt to virtual environments. The overarching goal of this multidisciplinary project is to advance the fields of behavioral science and computer science through our study of human behavior in real and virtual environments.

Hardin Library Simulation Center

Provides a list of the simulators being used by the Health sciences departments at the University of Iowa.

Musculoskeletal Imaging, Modeling, and EXperimentation (MIMX) Program

Nicole M. Grosland, director

The Musculoskeletal Imaging, Modeling, and EXperimentation (MIMX)  Program is a collaborative effort directed at computational modeling of anatomic structures.   A primary objective is to automate the development of patient-/subject- specific models using a combination of imaging and modeling techniques, with particular emphasis on finite element modeling.

National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS)

Herm Reininga, interim director
Susan Chrysler, director of research
Omar Ahmad, director of operations

The National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) is a center for driving simulation excellence located at the University of Iowa Research Park campus. The NADS facility is home to a range of simulators that offer varying levels of driving realism. NADS employees are a collection of experts unmatched in their experience in working with all aspects of driving simulation.  Development and research conducted at the NADS – sponsored by government, military, and industry partners – saves lives, improves quality of life for motorists, advances the state of the art in driving simulation, and improves the efficiency and productivity of the vehicle manufacturing sector.  For over 25 years, researchers at The University of Iowa have continuously defined the state-of-the-art in simulation, vehicle dynamics modeling, and cognitive systems engineering. NADS continues this rich tradition by advancing multidisciplinary, collaborative simulation science and technology at the University and beyond.

Operator Performance Laboratory

Thomas Schnell, director

The Operator Performance Laboratory conducts research on human-in-the-loop and intelligent autonomous systems to increase efficiency, inter-operability, and safety. Systems of particular interest include flight decks, airborne sensor systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems, and automotive user interface systems. Flight deck technology of interest includes Synthetic Vision Systems (SVS), Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS), Head Up Displays (HUDs), and Head Worn Displays (HWD), along with optimized symbology sets. Integration of airborne sensor systems such as imaging sensors, Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), and RADAR provides for an extension of human vision towards enhancing situation awareness and capabilities. Our emerging UAV systems work focuses on airborne inter-operability and ground station design by leveraging knowledge from the flight deck research area. Also, the application of Intelligent Avionics System.s (IAS) gives the UAV autonomous behaviors that allow for perception of situations for autonomous decision making and support on the basis of sensor data. The OPL performs research on a diverse array of platforms, including fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, instrumented vehicles, and earth-moving machines.

Reliability and Sensory Prognostic Systems (RSPS) Group

Olesya I. Zhupanska, director

The Department of Anesthesia uses simulation in a controlled environment chiefly as a tool for experiential practice of a) unusual, difficult clinical situations and b) coordination of teams in emergencies.  Life-size adult and infant mannequins model normal and abnormal physiology, drug responses, and some anatomic changes.  A third use of simulation, “on location” in the work environment, is being piloted to test workplace safety systems. 


Matthew Rizzo, director

SIREN is a sophisticated fixed base driving simulator designed for research in the clinical setting, in collaboration with Drive Safety (Fort Collins, CO). We built SIREN to create an immersive real-time virtual environment for assessing at-risk drivers in a medical setting. The simulator generates a range of driving environments including roadway types and grades, traffic, signal controls, and light and weather conditions, for differing clinical and experimental needs.  Quantitative measures acquired with SIREN include variables related to steering wheel position, accelerator and brake pedal position, vehicle speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, headway, time-to-collision, and driver performance in complex tasks. These data are synchronized with real-time video images of the driver and roadway for detailed analyses of driver behavior.

Virtual Soldier Research

Karim Abdel-Malek, director

Designed to reduce the cost of prototyping military equipment through the use of human modeling and simulation technology. A team of researchers are working to create "autonomous digital humans" that can answer how humans would interact with proposed vehicles and weapons systems. The digital humans are programmed to provide the feedback that a real human would provide in a simulated world. They are able to respond to inputs "on the fly," answering such questions as the joint angles that would be required for a human operator to reach a switch, and how long the human would be comfortable doing a particular task.