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Dr. Rory Cooper (left) and President Joseph Biden.
(Photo by Ryan K. Morris/National Science and Technology Medals Foundation.)
VA Researcher, Dr. Rory Cooper, earns White House Innovation Award
November 3, 2023
By Erica Sprey
VA Research Communications
"Dr. Cooper has dedicated his career to creating inventions that make the impossible possible for people with disabilities."
WASHINGTON—President Joseph Biden awarded VA research scientist Dr. Rory Cooper the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his outstanding contributions to engineering science during an Oct. 24 White House ceremony.
Cooper is director of Rehabilitation Research and Development’s Human Engineering Research Laboratory (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh, where he oversees and conducts research to support the needs of disabled Veterans and other individuals with mobility impairments. HERL holds 25 patents, and their inventions are used by more than a quarter million people every day.
“Dr. Cooper is the epitome of can-do, and he’s dedicated his career to creating inventions that make the impossible possible for people with disabilities,” said VA Chief Research and Development Officer Dr. Rachel Ramoni.
Together with his research team, Cooper has developed several state-of-the-art innovations to overcome mobility challenges, including assistive robotic manipulators, a wheelchair that can climb curbs and uneven terrain, microelectrode brain-machine interfaces, transfer biomechanics, and even virtual reality.
Cooper is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He is also a distinguished professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and assistant vice chancellor for research for STEM-health science collaborations. His awards include the 2022 IEEE Biomedical Engineering Award, the U.S. Patent Office’s Inventor Collectible Card Series, the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America, Science and Environment Medal, and the National Inventors Hall of Fame, among others.
The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is the nation’s highest award, given to visionary pioneers who have worked to strengthen the U.S. economy and improve quality of life for all Americans. Established in 1985 by Congress, the award is administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
*Watch this video as Dr. Cooper explains his motivation to develop new innovations in wheelchair technology to help disadvantaged Americans.