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Published: 2020-09-08

“The best thing about IDS is the mixed disciplines”

PROFILE Johan Iraeus defended his doctoral thesis at Umeå University’s IDS in 2015. Now he is working at Chalmers University of Technology where he is involved in biomechanical research specialising in preventing and mitigating vehicle collision injuries.

Text: Nicolina Viklund
Image: Art Markiv

Johan Iraeus, who came from a background in engineering, has worked as a consultant most of his career. He came into contact with the automotive industry, an area he never left, when working with his first employer CARAN. There, he began working with consulting at Saab Automobile. This is also where his journey within IDS started.

“I got to know Mats Lindkvist, a researcher at the Department of Surgical and Perioperative Science at Umeå University. I helped him create simulations, and that is what eventually lead to him and I applying for funding from Vinnova and supplementary funding from IDS” says Johan Iraeus.

Initially, Saab along with the engineering and consulting company ÅF were the external partners in the project. The road safety company Autoliv also had a part in the project. But when Saab was declared bankrupt, the project had to be reconstructed and Autoliv stepped in to adopt Saab’s role, becoming IDS’ external business partner for the final years of the project.

The thesis project was about crash safety. More specifically, the goal was to construct computer models to help predict how new protection measures could be used in real accidents.

“Normally, new protection systems and cars are tested in well-defined crash scenarios where you drive a car into a barrier and measure the potential damage on a crash dummy. It could be considered the equivalent to a real life collision.

But Johan’s project was a bit different as they were attempting to characterise all kinds of crashes.

“We used computer simulations and tried to build a model that was meant to represent all types of collisions. This way, we will be able to test intended protection systems in a more varied way, not just against barrier collisions.

The largest part of the PhD involved building the model and characterising what the collisions look like. The work did not get far enough that they could investigate a new protection system, but instead it became a method of how to characterise collisions in the future. That is why Autoliv was a very good external partner, says Johan Iraeus, because they are working on developing new protection systems. To this day, Johan Iraeus has almost daily contact with Autoliv.

So far he has not seen any use of the model in the development of new protection systems, but Johan Iraeus has disseminated the results from the thesis and model around the world. The model is used within the EU project OSCCAR, for example, which is developing a new strategy to improve people’s safety in the event of vehicle accidents. The model is also used by a research group at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to make reconstructions of accidents available in the database CIREN, Crash injury research.

Johan Iraeus has to some extent used his doctoral thesis project in his current work as a researcher at Chalmers. During his doctoral dissertation, finished human models were used to assess the risk of injury, but now he is working on the development of new human models.

“It has shifted a bit, from me mainly focusing on the car and its safety systems to the person’s risk of injury, and how to model that. I still use the car model I created during my thesis project.  In part, as a component of the validation of the human models and partly in teaching when, for example, I let students run the model. The research is so much broader than the model we developed, so of course I use generic knowledge from my research as well now that I supervise doctoral students myself.

Johan carries a lot of different memories with him from his time at IDS. What he usually thinks back on is all the thesis defences, where they got to see the results of the years they studied together. A highlight experience, Johan says. But there is another memory that pops up as well.

“Right at the start we had a course in presentation techniques. When one of the doctoral students in our group was going to present their Master’s thesis, they presented lots of equations and after a couple of slides, when a Hamilton function appeared, the rest of us looked at each other because we didn’t understand any of it, and after a while everyone started laughing. A classic example of failing to adapt your presentation to your audience. Four years later, things were looking significantly better.

What would you say is the best thing about IDS?

The best thing about IDS is the mixed disciplines that we were researching. It was interesting to see how research is conducted in different fields. There were some people in my year working on things I had no knowledge of, like chemistry for example.

Fast facts:

Lives: in Landvetter outside of Gothenburg
Comes from: Västerås
Family: Partner, two children, and a cat.
Hobbies: Fix up the house and brewing beer
Favourite book: The Lord of the Rings
The best thing about Chalmers: Chalmers has a long tradition of researching road safety and a rather large group working in this field. The closeness with the automotive industry was a big plus.