Science of the Olympics, Paralympics
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Rory Cooper, PhD—University of Pittsburgh FISA and Paralyzed Veterans of America Chair and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, director of the University’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL), and professor of bioengineering, mechanical engineering, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and orthopaedic medicine at Pitt—was interviewed by NBC regarding biomedical science and biomechanical engineering and technology surrounding athletes in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Dr. Cooper was featured in three online NBC videos as part of the network’s coverage of the Games. The 5-minute educational videos, part of NBC’s “Science of the Olympics” series, highlight athletes including Oscar Pistorius, double-amputee sprinter, and Jenny Simpson, a steeplechaser turned 1,500-meter runner.
“I hope that when people see these programs,” Dr. Cooper said, “it will encourage more people from underrepresented minorities, especially people with disabilities, to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
Dr. Cooper and Pitt doctoral student and HERL physical therapist Justin Laferrier are featured in the following three NBC videos:
“I am really pleased to see the Paralympics get this level of attention,” said Dr. Cooper, a former bronze medalist at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics and recently a five-time gold medalist at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. “The athletes are truly Olympians and have achieved amazing heights of athleticism.”
The idea for the video series was proposed early this year at a national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where Dr. Cooper—there to receive one of two Mentor Award honors—saw a similarly produced educational video on the science behind hockey. Dr. Cooper, with ties to the NSF for roughly 20 years, heard at that meeting about the NSF and NBC partnering on a mirror project involving the Olympics. He suggested the idea of a Paralympics video, and his idea became reality.
Dr. Cooper is a renowned authority on paralyzed veterans, wounded warriors, and on many other military matters who is invited to advise presidential cabinet members and has been honored at a U.S. Marines parade. In addition to being an engineer, a scientist, a researcher, and a professor, he is a veteran and a medal-winning international athlete whom General Mills honored with a photo and write up on a Cheerios cereal box.