Research Facilities

Faculty Laboratories


The Industrial and Systems Engineering faculty oversee a number of state-of-the-art research laboratories that investigate a wide variety engineering challenges. Below is a brief description of faculty-led research laboratories.


AMPRL Lab (Prof. Song)

Researchers at AMPRL focus on studying how material forming processes that occur in nature can be utilized to enable next-generation additive manufacturing (AM) technologies. Their current research includes the design and development of next-generation AM technologies, AM process modeling and optimization, and the advancement of novel applications of new AM technologies. The lab applies its technological developments in a diverse array of fields, including tissue engineering, sensing, energy harvesting, and robotics. The lab is furnished with state-of-the-art material preparation, processing, and characterization equipment, as well as several custom 3D printers invented and developed by the group.


GROK Lab (Prof. Thomas)

The Graphical Representation of Knowledge or GROK Lab develops technologies to help scientists and doctors improve their understanding and control of complex systems such as robots, distributed sensor networks, and augmented-reality systems. The lab designs and builds software, electronic circuits, and mechanical devices that create or modify complex systems and that extend scientists' understanding of how to make these systems perform their intended tasks better.


The lab has a variety of software development platforms and manufacturing tools, including CNC machines and supplies for casting and molding, as well as a suite of equipment for circuit design, testing, and assembly. The GROK lab has developed technologies used by NASA to control robots exploring South America and Mars. Its most recent projects have focused on using distributed wireless sensor networks to monitor factory-related health hazards and on developing surgical simulators to better train orthopedic surgeons.


Information and Cognitive Systems Engineering Research Group (Prof. Pennathur)

Research in the Information Cognitive Systems Engineering Research Group focuses on design and analysis of cognitive work and information systems in real-world domains. Our current emphasis is on cognitive work in health care systems.


We conduct studies in usability testing, process mapping, cognitive-walkthroughs, discrete-event simulation, dynamic systems simulation, and interface design, prototyping and evaluation. Our research facility houses state-of-the-art qualitative field data collection equipment and data analysis tools, programming tools for discrete event and dynamic systems simulations, and design, prototyping, and usability testing hardware and software tools for interface and display design. Our facility also employs data modeling and mining tools, and diagramming tools are available.


The Intelligent Systems Laboratory (Prof. Kusiak)

The Intelligent Systems Laboratory conducts research in data science and computational intelligence leading to applications in manufacturing, energy, service organizations, and health care. Research in the lab has been funded by government agencies and industrial corporations. Solutions to practical problems and enhancement of engineering education are emphasized. Most of the lab's recent projects concentrate on the development of software tools for product design, manufacturing, and health care applications.


Diverse software is available for modeling, design, and construction of intelligent systems.


The National Advanced Driving Simulator Laboratory (Prof. McGehee)

The National Advanced Driving Simulator laboratory is home to the nation’s first and largest public simulator of its kind anywhere in the world. For the last 25 years, the UI has conducted advanced research and development in support of saving lives, improving quality of life, advancing technology, and improving efficiency and productivity of the automotive and supporting industries. Most importantly, NADS serves as a place where students can learn first-hand about how innovation occurs in science and engineering.


From drug research to automated vehicles, NADS is dedicated to engaging in a broad, holistic approach. Faculty, staff, and students at NADS collaborate with nearly all UI colleges in their automotive safety research. Human factors research at NADS is funded by government agencies and industry leaders for both the public and private sectors. NADS supports undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students in driving research studies. Many of these studies include the use of the NADS miniSimTM, a portable, high-performance driving simulator based on NADS’ state-of-the-art driving simulation technology developed through decades of research. In-house workstations and computers equipped with software such as MATLAB, Visual Studio, R, and SAS are available to those students with approved access to the facility.


Operator Performance Laboratory (Prof. Schnell)

The Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL), founded in 1998 by Tom “Mach” Schnell, is a flight test organization at the University of Iowa. OPL specializes in civilian and military flight testing and assessment of technologies in operational contexts, such as flight in degraded visual environments (DVE) and GPS-denied environments. Quantification of data link and sensor performance for manned and unmanned aircraft in such operational context is an area of focus. OPL develops, tests, and evaluates Helmet Mounted Displays (HMDs), Synthetic Vision Systems (SVS), Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) training systems, physiological based workload measurement systems, pilot spatial orientation enhancement systems, and embedded flight simulation capabilities.


Unmanned aircraft operations include 5th and 6th generation manned-unmanned teaming (MUMT) concepts and the extension of LVC toward MUMT. The OPL team developed the Cognitive Assessment Tool Set (CATS), which is able to accurately quantify human cognitive workload using a flight-approved sensor package. CATS has been used in many flight tests as the data collection and analysis tool for pilot behavior in real-world flight environments. OPL pioneered the development and testing of Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) technology that blends ground-based battlespace simulations with airborne testbeds equipped with radar and weapons simulators that can employ simulated ordnance for effect in distributed simulation environments. This capability has been demonstrated many times, including at the Interservice/Industry Training Simulation Education Conference (I/ITSEC). In 2004, the OPL team developed and tested a Synthetic Vision System that was subsequently commercialized by Dynon Avionics under the brand name Skyview. This system has sold over 8,000 units and is flying in thousands of aircraft.


OPL has performed many flight test projects on its fleet of aircraft, exceeding a total 2,200 flight hours of incident-free data collection. Over those years, OPL’s fleet has grown to eleven instrumented research aircraft. These include 2 x L-29 fighter jet trainers, 2 x MI-2 twin-turbine helicopters, 1 x A-36 Bonanza, 1 x Cessna 172, 1 x HQ-90 UAS (103 lbs), 3 x TBM 3M UAS (62lbs), and 1 x Vapor 55 (55 lbs). The OPL L-29s are the only tactical jet research aircraft that are equipped with the F-35 HMD. Each OPL aircraft is also a flight simulator. Additionally, the OPL has a Boeing 737-800 full flight deck simulator, a UAV Ground Control Station (GCS) simulator, and a fast jet simulator. OPL has an extensive telemetry infrastructure that is deployable. This includes telemetry for mobile operations installed in a Model 997A1 instrumented communications vehicle with a 20 ft. extensible mast for antennas. OPL’s flight support system is also deployable using mobile tool control, spares, jigs, jacks, etc.


The Visual Intelligence Laboratory (Prof. Baek)

The Visual Intelligence Laboratory is a research group led by Professor Stephen Baek at the University of Iowa Center for Computer-Aided Design. The lab conducts fundamental research to bridge the state-of-the-art computational geometry, vision, and machine learning technologies to real-world industrial applications such as computational human factor, autonomous driving, image-guided radiotherapy, medical image analysis, computational design and fabrication, and so on. The lab is interested in discovering new mathematical theories and algorithms allowing the description, comparison, and algebraic (de)composition of shapes and visual features. Such mathematical understanding of shapes enables computers to see and understand the world and, thus, become smarter assistants to humans.


The Visual Intelligence Laboratory has a variety of imaging devices to obtain 2D/3D geometric information for various objects. The lab’s imaging capacity includes the Studio360, a state-of-the-art imaging facility comprised of 100+ DSLR cameras mounted on a 20ft. diameter geodesic dome. The Studio360 can capture time-synced photos/videos of dynamic objects (e.g. a person performing a motion) from multiple perspectives and reconstruct 3D models of the objects. The lab also owns a high-performance computing server with 8x NVIDIA GeForce 1080Ti GPUs and 2x Intel Xeon E5 CPUs (total 48 threads), designated for massive-scale image/geometry processing and deep learning.


The lab has established a broad academic research partnership/collaboration with a variety of entities across the campus, including the Virtual Soldier Research (VSR) program, the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS), and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). In addition, the lab has engaged in a number of research projects sponsored by government and industry partners, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Defense, and a few international manufacturing companies.


Affiliate Research Laboratories and Centers

The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering works closely with a number of facilities across campus to facilitate research needs. Some of these include:

  • The Center for Computer-Aided Design (CCAD) - Founded in 1981, CCAD conducts basic and applied research in modeling and simulation.
  • IIHR - Hydroscience and Engineering - At IIHR, students, faculty members, and research engineers work together to understand and manage one of the world’s greatest resources—water. Students from around the world benefit from IIHR’s comprehensive multidisciplinary approach, which includes basic fluid mechanics, laboratory experimentation, and computational approaches.
  • National Advanced Driving Simulator - The National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) is a self-sustained transportation safety research center in the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering. Funded by government and industry, NADS utilizes its suite of world-class driving simulators and instrumented on-road vehicles to conduct research studies for the private and public sectors.
  • Public Policy Center (PPC) - PPC researchers investigate some of the most important issues affecting our daily lives in Iowa and beyond. We also share the resources and expertise of the University with policymakers and the public through our engagement activities. Student involvement and training in research is emphasized, as is the development and support for interdisciplinary research across all Colleges.
  • The Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute - Faculty, staff, and students in the Institute work on the development of applications in many exciting programs requiring the use of nanoscience.
  • UI Orthopedic Biomechanics Lab (UIOBL) - UIOBL investigators conduct basic and applied musculoskeletal research for which mechanical analysis and/or measurements are appropriate.  Research projects of varying scope are undertaken in the laboratory to address problems of interest to orthopedic faculty members, and they serve to train students, residents, and fellows in the principles of scientific investigation.