University of Pittsburgh researcher recognized for work with Paralympics

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Rory Cooper, founding director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, a joint project of the University of Pittsburgh, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will receive the Paralympic Scientific Award at the VISTA 2013 conference in Bonn, Germany, in May, the International Paralympic Committee announced.

To be considered for the award, a candidate must have contributed through significant scientific publications related to the scientific study of sport for persons with an impairment in any discipline, have received national and/or international recognition for his or her work, and placed an emphasis on the practical application of research, the IPC said.

Mr. Cooper holds a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering with a concentration in bioengineering from University of California at Santa Barbara. His research has appeared in more than 270 scientific publications. He holds five patents for wheelchair applications. He's the first American researcher who is also a former Paralympics medalist to be given the prestigious award. Mr. Cooper won a bronze medal in the wheelchair racing relay at the Paralympic Games in Seoul in 1988.

A U.S. Army veteran with a spinal cord injury, Mr. Cooper won five gold medals in swimming at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games conducted in Pittsburgh last summer.

He's a distinguished professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology at Pitt, and holds secondary appointments as a professor of bioengineering, mechanical engineering, physical medicine and rehabilitation and orthopedic surgery. Mr. Cooper serves also as co-director of the National Science Foundation Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, which is sponsored by Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University.

The award is "in recognition of [his] outstanding contribution to the Paralympic movement," said IPC chief executive officer Xavier Gonzalez in his letter announcing it.

"The Paralympics have been an important aspect of my life for more than 30 years," Mr. Cooper said. "I credit my involvement with the Paralympic movement as a significant contributor to making my life and professional career as rewarding as it has been."

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Jack Kelly: jkelly@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1476.


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