CLEMSON — The professor who will take the wheel of Clemson University’s automotive engineering department said that he sees big research opportunities as the state’s auto industry grows and companies scramble to meet consumer expectations and federal fuel-efficiency regulations.

Zoran Filipi was introduced Tuesday as automotive engineering chair and executive director of the Carroll A. Campbell Graduate Engineering Center at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). He begins his new role immediately.

Zoran Filipi was named chair of the Department of Engineering, a key position as the state's auto industry expands.

Zoran Filipi was named chair of the automotive engineering department, a key position as the state’s auto industry expands.

“We can take automotive engineering to the next level,” Filipi said. “What excites me most is the chance to continue building and growing a pioneering department that is already a success story.”

Filipi will be the second chair in the department’s history. He takes over for Imtiaz Haque, who helped create CU-ICAR and is retiring.

Robert Jones, Clemson University’s executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said Filipi is highly qualified and brings an excellent set of credentials as a researcher and scholar in the automotive field.

“Zoran has a stellar record of leadership in education and research,” Jones said. “He is well-equipped to meet the growing need for top-notch automotive engineers and research.

“As department chair, he will play a key role in the CU-ICAR ecosystem that connects companies with Clemson’s students and faculty members.”

The department in the College of Engineering and Science started with three graduate students in 2006 and grew to more than 200 last year. All students in the program study at the graduate level, pursuing masters’ and doctoral degrees. Nearly 20 faculty members, most based out of CU-ICAR, are part of the department.

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering and Science, said that Filipi has the vision and background to make a great department even better.

“He has impeccable research credentials and he is a team builder,” Gramopadhye said. “We are fortunate to have a professor of his caliber at the helm. The department plays a key role in educating the next generation of automotive engineers and bringing new jobs to the state.”

Filipi began work in Clemson’s automotive engineering department in 2012. He is a Timken Endowed Chair in Vehicle System Design and a leading expert in advanced engine concepts and alternative powertrains, including electric and hydraulic hybrids

The leadership change comes as the state’s auto and tire companies expand. Economic development leaders have said the region is expanding beyond manufacturing and is playing an ever-larger role in development of new technologies.

More research and advanced engineering means more high-paying jobs in the area.

“What’s happening with the automotive industry is truly a renaissance,” Filipi said. “Carmakers are open to so many new technologies. Everything is on the table because by 2025 we need to double the fuel economy of passenger cars while at the same fulfilling consumer expectations regarding performance, comfort, safety, fun and affordability.

“That is just amazing for all of us in the automotive engineering department, all the faculty. There are terrific challenges and opportunities.”

Filipi said that the department’s vision fits with his own philosophy.

“We emphasize research for industry, working on problems that need to be solved to achieve sustainable transportation,” he said. “I believe in building teams. A lot of the research problems that come our way are very complex. You need multiple disciplines working together.”

Filipi received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Belgrade in 1992 and joined the University of Michigan in 1994. There he was the director of the Center for Engineering Excellence through Hybrid Technology and the deputy director of the Automotive Research Center.

He is a fellow in the Society of Automotive Engineers. Filipi’s honors include the society’s Forest R. McFarland Award, The Institution of Mechanical Engineer’s Donald Julius Groen Award and the University of Michigan Research Faculty Achievement Award. He is editor-in-chief of The SAE International Journal of Alternative Powertrains.

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