Photo of Rory A. Cooper

Rory A. Cooper

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Medicine

For empowering the lives of millions of Americans. By inventing and developing cutting-edge wheelchair technologies and mobility devices, cultivating the next generation of rehabilitation engineers, and championing wounded veterans and students with disabilities.

Rory A. Cooper, Ph.D. earned B.S. and M.Eng degrees in electrical engineering from California Polytechnic State University in 1985 and 1986, respectively. He earned a Ph.D. degree in electrical & computer engineering from University of California at Santa Barbara in 1989. He is FISA Foundation & Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). Cooper is Founding Director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories a VA Center in partnership with Pitt. Cooper is an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and of the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, and he was awarded Honorary Doctorate by Xi’an Jiatong University. Cooper has authored or co-authored nearly 400 peer-reviewed journal publications. He has >30 patents awarded/pending. Cooper is 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”, “Promoting Successful Integration”, and the award-winning book “Care of the Combat Amputee”. Cooper is a Fellow of National Academy of Inventors, as well as AAAS, RESNA, IEEE, AIMBE, RSM, and BMES. In 1988, he was a bronze medalist in the Paralympic Games. In 2013, Cooper was awarded the International Paralympic Scientific Achievement Award. Cooper is a U.S. Army veteran and a Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation, and a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. He serves on National Board of Directors of Easter Seals, Board of the World Institute on Disability, and Board Member of the US Intellectual Property Association.

Dr. Cooper’s highest awards include the Samuel E. Heyman Service to America Medal, IEEE Biomedical Engineering Medal, Sigma Xi McGovern Medal, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Olin E. Teague Award, Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, National Guard Bureau “Minute Man Award”; U.S. Army Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, AAAS Mentor Award, Joseph F. Engelberger Award, AIMBE Advocacy Award, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Diversity & Inclusion Excellence Award, Order of Military Medical Merit, Chapel of Four Chaplains Legion of Honor. Dr. Cooper is a member of the class of 2023 of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, a member of the Pennsylvania Military & Veteran Hall of Fame, was in the inaugural class of the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame. He was recognized in the Congressional Record of the United States Congress on Monday, July 27, 2009. In 2009, Cooper was featured on a Cheerios cereal box, and in August 2010, he with one of his robots was the centerfold in Popular Science. In 2015, TIME magazine produced a video on Cooper’s work for their on-line magazine ( In 2014, PN Magazine included Cooper as one of the people who have transformed the lives of people with SCI; while USO On Point featured Cooper as one of the veterans who have most influenced the lives of veterans through technology. In 2019, Cooper was revealed as the 28th inventor in the US Patent and Trademark Office “Inventor Collectible Card” Series. Cooper shared his story and insights to best-selling author, Mary Ann McFadden, during the writing of her novel “The Book Lover”. Further, Dr. Cooper’s students have been the recipients of over 75 national and international awards.