Rory Cooper, PhD

Dr. Rory Cooper is FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology, and professor of Bioengineering, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Cooper is Founding Director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, a VA Rehabilitation R&D Center of Excellence in partnership with Pitt. He is also the Co-Director of the NSF Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, a joint effort between Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr. Cooper earned BS and MEng degrees in electrical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 1985 and 1986, respectively. He earned a PhD degree in electrical and computer engineering with a concentration in bioengineering from University of California at Santa Barbara in 1989.

Dr. Cooper is the Editor of the AT Research Book Series of IOS Press. He has authored or co-authored nearly 300 peer-reviewed journal publications. He has 20 patents awarded or pending. Dr. Cooper is the author of two books: Rehabilitation Engineering Applied to Mobility and Manipulation and Wheelchair Selection and Configuration, and co-editor of An Introduction to Rehabilitation Engineering, Warrior Transition Leader: Medical Rehabilitation Handbook, and the award winning book, Care of the Combat Amputee.

Dr. Cooper is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, as well as RESNA, IEEE, AIMBE, and BMES. Dr. Cooper has been an invited lecturer at many institutions around the world, for example the National Academies of Sciences Distinctive Voices Lecture, and was awarded Honorary Professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Xi’an Jiatong University. He has also been elected to Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, and Sigma Xi honorary societies. Dr. Cooper is a former President of RESNA, and a member of the IEEE-EMBS Medical Device Standards Committee. In 1988, he 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 International Paralympic Scientific Achievement Award.

Dr. Cooper has been a member of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – Medicare Advisory Committee, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Prosthetics & Special Disability Programs Advisory Committee, Chair of the National Advisory Board on Medical Rehabilitation Research, National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, U.S. Department of Defense Health Board Subcommittee on Amputation and Orthopedics, Board of Directors of Easter Seals, and National Academy of Sciences Keck Foundation Initiative on Human Health Span Steering Committee. Dr. Cooper has actively collaborated with the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre on increasing access to quality services and devices for people with disabilities (PwD) in India and throughout developing countries. Dr. Cooper is a U.S. Army veteran with a spinal cord injury (SCI) and a Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation. He is a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. He currently serves as a member of the Honorary Board of Advisors Student Veterans of America, NSF Advisory Committee for Education and Human Resources, Command Council, Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services, Chair of the USAID/WHO Evidence Practice in Wheelchair Service Delivery Committee, and other national committees/boards.

In 2009, Dr. Cooper was featured on a Cheerios cereal box for his achievements, and in August 2010, he - with one of his robots - was the centerfold in Popular Science for his work in robotics to aid PwD and older adults. In 2014, PN Magazine included Dr. Cooper as one of the people who have transformed the lives of people with SCI, while USO On Point featured Dr. Cooper as one of the veterans who have most influenced the lives of veterans through technology. Dr. Cooper also shared his story and provided insights to best-selling author, Mary Ann McFadden, during the writing of her novel, The Book Lover.

Dr. Cooper was selected by the Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, as the Guest of Honor for the “Evening Parade” hosted on 3 August 2012 by Michael P. Barrett, the 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corp. He was recognized in the Congressional Record of the United States Congress on Monday, July 27, 2009, and with a Proclamation of Rory A. Cooper, PhD Day by the City of Pittsburgh on June 17, 2014, for his contributions to engineering and science on behalf of PwD and personal example. Further, Dr. Cooper’s students have been the recipients of over 50 national and international awards.

Dr. Cooper's highest awards include the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Service Medal, American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor Award, Joseph F. Engelberger Award, Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, U.S. Army Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Diversity & Inclusion Excellence Award, Olin E. Teague Award, Paul Magnuson Award, Carnegie Catalyst Award, Cliff Crase Award, Pennsylvania Military & Veteran Hall of Fame, Order of Military Medical Merit, Bronze Order of Mercury, Pennsylvania Meritorious Service Medal (1OLC), Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, Chapel of Four Chaplains Legion of Honor, Boy Scouts of America Community Cornerstone Award, U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal (1OLC), James Peters Award, Maxwell J. Schleifer Award, DaVinci Lifetime Achievement Award, Veteran’s Leadership Program Veteran of the Year, RESNA Distinguished Service Award (x2,) and a member of the inaugural class of the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame.

View a list of publications authored by Dr. Cooper here.


Rory Cooper, PhD
Phone: (412) 383-6590