Rory Cooper, PhD
The Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) is a joint effort between the University of Pittsburgh, the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, and UPMC Health System. HERL occupies approximately 40,000 square feet of laboratory and office space in the Bakery Square office and research complex in Pittsburgh's East End. Under the direction of Rory Cooper, PhD, HERL's Founder and Director, and Michael Boninger, MD, HERL's Medical Director and Director of the University of Pittsburgh's Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury (UPCM-SCI), HERL is dedicated to wheelchair and mobility research, specifically by improving the mobility and function of people with disabilities through advanced engineering in clinical research and medical rehabilitation. The laboratory, which was designated as a VA Center of Excellence for Wheelchair and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering (WARE), also studies such topics as athletics in rehabilitation, assistive housing and living spaces, the efficiency and effect of wheelchair transfers, clinician training, and force and vibration on a wheelchair user's "ride comfort." Besides its general research and office space, HERL houses a wheelchair-testing laboratory, a fully equipped machine shop, an ultrasound laboratory, and a robotics laboratory. HERL is partners with the Quality of Life Technology Center, funded by the National Science Foundation, and hosts various educational programs such as the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), Experiential Learning for Veterans in Assistive Technology and Engineering (ELeVATE), and the Fabrication of Assistive Technology (FATe) Program for Wounded Warriors.