In Memoriam: Kwan Rim

A portrait of a man

Originally Posted on: March 6th, 2018

Kwan Rim, professor emeritus and pioneer of one of America’s first biomedical engineering educational programs, died March 4 in South Korea. Memorial services are pending.

Rim fostered the development of teaching, research, and economic development partnerships, particularly between engineering and the health sciences. Rim left his leadership and innovative mark throughout the U.S., Asia, and for that matter, worldwide.

At the University of Iowa, the fields of medicine and engineering were already entwined in the late 1960s, thanks to the efforts of faculty members such as Rim, then chair of the Mechanics and Hydraulics program. Rim and other UI engineering colleagues had begun a pioneering effort to collaborate on musculoskeletal biomechanics research during the 1970s with faculty in the Carver College of Medicine’s nationally ranked Department of Orthopaedics.

Based on those fruitful collaborations, Rim realized the potential for establishing a biomedical engineering program within the UI College of Engineering. He also saw the unique advantage of starting such a program at Iowa, due to the presence of a medical school with significant research emphasis that was also home to one of the largest teaching hospitals in the country.

Through Rim’s efforts and with the support of university and college leadership, the UI’s Biomedical Engineering program was launched in 1974. Over the next decade, the program attracted faculty members whose research specialties reflected the rapid expansion of biomedical engineering as a discipline well-suited to synergistic partnerships with UI colleagues across campus. Today, the program is among the most prestigious in the country with the largest enrollment in the college.

Subsequently, Rim was instrumental in the creation of the UI Center for Computer-Aided Design (CCAD), founded in 1981. CCAD conducts basic and applied research in modeling and simulation. With more than 150 scientists, faculty members, and graduate and undergraduate students, CCAD currently is organized into eight units. CCAD has since sustained substantial growth and has created many strategic partnerships with government and corporate entities. Funding agencies and companies include the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as companies such as Ford, GM, Chrysler, Rockwell Collins, John Deere, Caterpillar, NASA, and many others. The center has 18 laboratories and specialized research facilities.

Throughout his career, Rim received a multitude of national and international honors. In 2014, he was inducted into the College of Engineering’s Legacy of Iowa Engineering.

While at the University of Iowa, Rim served as professor of mechanics and hydraulics; professor of biomedical engineering; chair, Department of Mechanics and Hydraulics; chair, Division of Materials Engineering; chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering; and associate dean for academic programs and research.

For more on Kwan Rim and the Department of Biomedical Engineering’s subsequent growth, visit for a commemorative look back at the department’s 40th anniversary in 2014.