Conor Walsh Wins Presidential Early Career Award

Award honors outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent research careers

By Lindsay Brownell

(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) — Earlier this month, President Donald J. Trump announced that Wyss Core Faculty member Conor Walsh, Ph.D. is among this year’s recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

Conor Walsh, Ph.D. is among the nation’s top early-career scientists and engineers in 2019. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Established in 1996, the PECASE acknowledges the contributions scientists and engineers have made to the advancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, and community outreach. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy coordinates the PECASE with participating departments and agencies; Walsh’s work on wearable soft robotics to assist in walking and other tasks was recognized and nominated by the Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services.

The soft exosuits being developed in Walsh’s lab are designed to move with the body like clothing, providing support and assistance when needed without impeding normal movement. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award along with hundreds of the nation’s top scientists and engineers who are in the early stages of establishing their research careers,” said Walsh, who is also the Gordon McKay Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “This award is nice recognition for the translational research we are undertaking in the lab and a credit to the many students, researchers, and staff who make it happen. We will continue to endeavor to contribute new knowledge to this field of soft wearable robotics and develop technologies that can improve the lives of millions of people, both in the US and worldwide.”

Fellow Wyss Core Faculty member Rob Wood, Ph.D. received the PECASE award in 2009 for his work on microrobots.

“We are extremely proud of the amazing work Conor and his lab have done since he joined the Wyss Institute faculty. His pace of innovation has been incredible: he only joined our faculty seven years ago, and one of the soft exosuits he developed here just received FDA approval for use in stroke rehabilitation.  We are excited to see what else comes out of his lab in the future,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS.