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Dr. Rory A. Cooper received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees in Electrical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 1985 and 1986, respectively. He received his Doctorate in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a concentration in Bioengineering from University of California at Santa Barbara in 1989. He is a Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, and professor of Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physical Medicine & Rehab, and Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Cooper’s students have been the recipients of over 50 national and international awards.
Dr. Cooper is a U.S. Army veteran with a spinal cord injury and a Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation. Dr. Cooper has actively collaborated with the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre on increasing access to quality services and devices for people with disabilities in India and throughout developing countries. He is also Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Western Pennsylvania. He currently serves as a member of numerous national committees, advisory boards, and councils. In 2009, Dr. Cooper was recognized in the Congressional Record of the United States for his contributions to people with disabilities and personal example, and was featured on a Cheerios cereal box for his many achievements. In August 2010, he and one of his robots were the centerfold in Popular Science for his work in robotics to aid people with disabilities and older adults.
Dr. Cooper is Founding Director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories a VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh. He is also the Co-Director of the NSF Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, a joint effort between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Cooper is a recipient of countless awards, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor Award, Joseph F. Engelberger Award, Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, U.S. Army Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award, and is a member of the inaugural class of the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame.
Dr. Cooper has authored or co-authored 285 peer-reviewed journal publications, has over 10 patents awarded or pending, and is the author of 2 books: "Rehabilitation Engineering Applied to Mobility and Manipulation” and “Wheelchair Selection and Configuration”. He is an elected Fellow of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), and the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES).
Dr. Cooper was awarded Honorary Professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Xi’an Jiatong University. He is a former President of RESNA, and a member of the RESNA/ANSI and ISO Wheelchair Standards Committees, and IEEE-EMBS Medical Device Standards Committee. In 1988, Dr. Cooper was a bronze medalist in the Paralympic Games, Seoul Republic of Korea. He was on the steering committee for the 1996 Paralympic Scientific Congress held in Atlanta, GA, and the Sports Scientist for the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Team in Beijing, China. In 2013, Dr. Cooper was awarded the Paralympic Scientific Achievement Award.