Zelik named NIH Career Development Award Winner; earns grant, mentorship

Karl Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and physical medicine and rehabilitation, right, discusses research with graduate students. (Vanderbilt University)

Assistant Professor Karl Zelik is one of three National Institutes of Health K12 Career Development Award winners for 2016 who will be participating in the Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Engineering Program.

The winners, all early-stage engineering investigators selected because their work has the potential for translational impact, will be mentored by senior clinical scientists in rehabilitation and receive $250,000 over two years.

Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University, said the honor offers an important chance to accelerate his work.

Zelik explains a movement capturing system. (Vanderbilt University)

“The mentors include renowned scientists and doctors who have been working directly with clinical populations for many years, pioneering new ways to improve patient care and outcomes,” he said. “We, as engineers, may come up with what we think is a great solution in the research lab only to learn it’s not a practical solution in the clinic. The clinical mentorship helps us overcome translational research challenges, boosting our work’s impact.”

Zelik’s research aims to improve mobility and quality of life for individuals with disabilities by developing assistive devices that better interface with the human body and more effectively augment movement. Much of his previous work has focused on understanding healthy human locomotion and using biologically-inspired insights to improve prosthetic technology for amputees. However, he said that understanding biological movement translates not only to prosthetics, but also to exoskeletons and other human augmentation devices used in medical, military and industrial settings.

The program is administered out of Northwestern University in concert with a consortium of institutions. Zelik is also an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University. Zelik said he was drawn to the field of human biomechanics after years of competing in track and field at Washington University in St. Louis, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan.


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