Conor Walsh, the Paul A. Maeder Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has received a 2022 Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists.
Walsh will receive $250,000, the largest unrestricted scientific award for young, faculty-ranked scientists and engineers.
Walsh was chosen for his work reshaping how humans interact with machines through the development of lightweight, flexible, and soft wearable robot technologies, with the goal of dramatically improving human mobility, including for people with ALS or those who have experienced a stroke.
“Walsh’s research takes its inspiration from the functionality of human movement to achieve elegant solutions,” said Nicholas Suntzeff, Distinguished Professor at Texas A&M University and 2022 Blavatnik Awards Jury Chair. “His group has also taken this technology to the marketplace, and we expect this will revolutionize the ability of disabled people to safely recover some of their mobility, as well as their quality of life. Imagine a lower limb that gives a person extra energy to raise the leg at the knee joint. That person may now be able to walk upstairs–a significant impact on their quality of life.”
At SEAS, Walsh is the Faculty Director of the Harvard Move Lab, a recently launched initiative with support from the commonwealth to support advances in human performance enhancement with the collaborative space, funding, R&D infrastructure, and experience necessary to turn promising research into mature technologies. The initiative serves as a connector for groups across Harvard schools, local institutions, and industry partners who share this mission. Located in Harvard’s new Science and Engineering Complex, the Harvard Move Lab joins a strong innovation ecosystem in Allston next to Harvard Business School and Harvard Innovation Labs.
His multidisciplinary Harvard Biodesign Lab brings students, researchers, and staff together with clinical collaborators to tackle projects from multiple perspectives, with a focus on approaches that can ultimately lead to translation of new technologies. Examples include the soft exosuit technology licensed to ReWalk Robotics, the spin-out companies Verve Motion and Imago Rehab, and a minimally invasive catheter technology for repairing damaged hearts licensed to Holistick Medical.
Walsh received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering from Trinity College in Dublin (2003), and a master’s (2006) and Ph.D. (2010) in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the Harvard SEAS faculty in 2012.