Karl Zelik receives distinguished Goel Award for translational research in biomechanics

Karl Zelik, associate professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and physical medicine and rehabilitation, is being recognized for his contributions to the field of biomechanics with a prestigious Goel Award from the American Society of Biomechanics.

Karl Zelik

The award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in translational biomechanics research, entrepreneurship, and societal benefit. Zelik co-directs the Center for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology at Vanderbilt. His overall mission is to improve health, mobility, and independence for individuals with physical disabilities and to enhance human performance and well-being through advances in movement science and assistive technology like prostheses and exoskeletons.

Zelik is also Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of HeroWear, a Vanderbilt spin-off company. HeroWear is a workforce wearable technology company that makes back-relieving exosuits to support workers in logistics, manufacturing, and other physically-demanding jobs. In 2021, Zelik’s lab received a one-year, $1.2 million investment from the Army Futures Command’s research lab, known as DEVCOM, and the Civil-Military Innovation Institute Inc. The funding supported the Army’s Pathfinder program, a collaboration between Vanderbilt and soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division to develop the Soldier Assistive Bionic Exosuit for Resupply, or SABER, which is being prepared for field use by the Army.

In March 2023, HeroWear introduced its newest commercially available version of the exosuit, the Apex 2. Studies, including an article in the journal Nature’s Scientific Reports, show the exosuit can reduce fatigue by an average of 29 percent to 47 percent in lower back muscles and reduce musculoskeletal injury risk – all without motors or batteries. HeroWear is one of three faculty-initiated startups recently approved to receive Discovery Vanderbilt investments in an attempt to boost innovation across the university.

Zelik serves on the Board of a non-profit called the American Bionics Project, which seeks to accelerate the development and adoption of revolutionary new technologies for people with lower-limb disabilities. He also performs biomechanics and wearable technology consulting work for industry, from startups to multinational corporations, through Zelik Biomech, LLC.


Contact: Lucas Johnson, 615-343-0137