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Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center

The vision for our Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) was to improve the quality of life for persons who use prostheses and orthoses through creative applications of science and engineering to prosthetics and orthotics (P&O). From 2008-2013, we worked to uncover new knowledge and understanding in P&O and bring more quantification to the field in order to develop new concepts and devices to improve the quality, cost-effectiveness and delivery of P&O fittings. During this NIDRR grant cycle, NURERC conducted seven research projects, five development projects and multiple educational projects that to expand the understanding of the biomechanics of human movement, develop improved devices for people with amputations and train others in these areas of knowledge.

Research collaborations and educational opportunities were available through associations with multiple university entities, including the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; and the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. Graduate students working to complete their MS and PhD degrees contributed significantly to our work in research, development and education.

RERC Research & Development Projects

The following projects were completed as part of the RERC activity. Learn more about the projects on the Areas of Research section of our site.

Research Activities 2008—2013

  • Examinations Of Balance In Persons With Transfemoral Amputation
  • Evaluation Of Spinal Motion In Persons With Transfemoral Amputation
  • Effect Of Socket Characteristics On Coronal Plane Gait Stability
  • Investigation Of Ankle Axis Misalignment In AFOs Using a 3-D Model
  • Assessing Performance Claims For Articulated Hands
  • Assesing Prosthetic Needs Of Farmers and Ranchers
  • Enhancing Quality Of Services With Process and Outcome Information

Development Activities 2008—2013

  • Performing Multi-center Motion Analysis Studies Of P&O Users
  • Further Development Of an Adaptable Prosthetic Ankle Unit
  • Further Development Of the Junior Shape & Roll Prosthetic Foot
  • Preliminary Quantitative Gait Analysis Of RGO Users
  • Modeling the Effects Of Hip Joint Stiffness On RGO-assisted Gait
  • Clinical Collaboration To Improve Orthotics and Prosthetics Practice

Publications & Manuals

Primary goals of the RERC for P&O are to provide education about the science of P&O; and to disseminate the results of research and development projects conducted at the NU-RERC to audiences that include people who use prostheses and orthoses, prosthetists, orthotists, physicians, therapists, manufacturers, suppliers, other researchers, and the general public. In partial fulfillment of those goals, these publications and manuals are available at no cost.


Capabilities is a free publication designed to inform the clinicians, researchers, consumers and the public about advances in P&O research and education. From 1991 through 2013, Capabilities was published as a quarterly that was funded by grants from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the U.S. Department of Education. 

State of the Science Reports of the RERC for P&O

The NURERC publishes State of the Science (SOS) Reports as part of our mission to educate others about the science of P&O. This information is freely available to the public.

Shape&Roll Prosthetic Foot Instruction Manuals

Learn more about the Shape & Roll Foot Designer Kit in our Research section.

Shape&Roll Prosthetic Foot Jr.

Fabrication Manual for the Shape&Roll Prosthetic Foot Jr.

Scholars Program

Currently unfunded, the NURERC Scholars Program has provided opportunities that are similar to its previous incarnation as the NIDRR Scholars Program. Annually, we designate a portion of our RERC funds to host a NURERC Scholar. The NURERC Scholars Program actively recruits persons with a physical disability, enables them to become involved in rehabilitation research projects at NURERC, and encourages them to pursue career work in rehabilitation research.

 NURERC Scholars

2013: Kyle Swensen
Kyle has a transtibial amputation due to a traumatic accident. He completed his Bachelor's of Science (2013) in Exercise Science at Brigham Young University. At NUPOC he conducted a mentored, in-depth literature review and contributed to an invited, published article about prosthetic outcome measures (See,  Heinemann AW, Connelly L, Ehrlich-Jones L, Fatone S. Outcome Instruments for Prosthetics: Clinical Applications. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2014; 25: 179-198). In June 2013 he joined the inaugural class of the NUPOC Master's in Prosthetics & Orthotics (MPO). Kyle's goals are to become a clinical Prosthetist-Orthotist and continue his research with the intent to improve evidence based practice in P&O.

2012: James Schweitzer
James has a lower limb amputation subsequent to congenital fibular hemimelia. He completed his Bachelor's of Science (2013) in Kinesiology at DePauw University (Greencastle, IN) and is enrolled in the Master's of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics degree program at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX. In addition to his knowledge about prosthetics as a client-consumer, James interned at a prosthetics facility where he shadowed prosthetists, assisted with casting and modifications, and wrote about his experience. At NUPOC, he worked collaboratively on several research projects, including the analysis, comparison, and presentation of data that were generated by the 2012 and 2006 NURERC State of the Science Surveys.

2011: Shingo Takemoto
Shingo is deaf and communicates well by lip-reading and speaking Japanese, English, and American Sign Language (ASL). Shingo earned his BS in mechanical engineering at University of Maryland, Baltimore (2010). At NUPOC, Shingo worked collaboratively toward re-designing a prosthetic ankle component that adapts to incline and decline in surface terrain. He has worked as a patent specialist in international technology and intellectual property. Currently he is a Patent Analyst with the Intellectural Property Group at Konami Digital Entertainment in the Washington, D.C. metro area. He wants to pursue a graduate degree in biomedical engineering and use his skills to improve the lives of children in developing nations who live with physical disabilities.

 NIDRR Scholars

2006: Elena Sorci
Elena has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder that affects her gait. Clinically-trained at NUPOC in both prosthetics and orthotics, Elena assisted with a NIDRR-RERC funded pilot investigation on ankle foot orthoses (Fatone S, Sorci E, Hansen A. Effects of Clinically Prescribed Ankle Foot Orthoses on Ankle-Foot Roll-Over Shapes: A Case Series, JPO 21-4B: Currently, she provides clinical P&O services at Hanger Orthopedic Group in Albany, NY.

2005: John Krenzel
John was a Master’s student in mechanical engineering at Cornell University when he proposed to visit our lab as a research extern for several months. John, who has bilateral transhumeral amputations, was eligible but unaware of our NU-RERC Scholar program. The NU-RERC Scholar program provided him the opportunity to spend several months in our laboratory where he participated in our upper-limb prosthetics research. Currently, John is a graduate student and also lectures in Mechanical Engineering at Penn State, Altoona, PA.

2004: Jason Wening 
Jason was a NUPOC student who had previous experience with a gait analysis laboratory and wanted to conduct research in our motion analysis research lab. Jason has bilateral transtibial limb loss and walks with prostheses. Under the NU-RERC Scholar Program, we were able to involve Jason in ongoing research in our motion analysis laboratory. Currently, Jason is a CPO and Director of Clinical Research and P&O Residency Program at Scheck & Siress, Oak Park, IL. Our laboratory continues to collaborate on research projects with Jason and Scheck & Siress.

2002: Allison Boynton-Beck
Allison has a left transradial limb deficiency. She is a certified prosthetist/orthotist who received her training at NUPOC. Her NIDRR Scholar project was a pilot investigation of a new orthotic knee joint for use in Knee Ankle Foot Orthoses (KAFOs). Allison was involved with fabrication of the KAFO, the planning and execution of the experimental protocol, data processing and analysis, and data interpretation. Currently, she is a CPO and an Owner/Manager, in Greenville, SC.

2000: Kellie Lim
Kellie has bilateral transtibial amputations, a right transradial amputation, and amputation of three fingers of left hand. During her time at our lab, she conducted the project, Quantitative and Subjective Analysis of Walking with Bilateral Below-Knee Limb Loss. She addressed functional limitations of the prosthesis and compensatory actions employed by the bilateral below-knee amputee. Currently, Kellie is a pediatrician-allergist-immunologist affiliated with Ronald Reagan University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, Fresno, CA.

 Dole Young Scholars Program

1997: Brian Ruhe
Brian has bilateral transfemoral amputations, the result of an automobile accident when he was a college undergraduate. As a Dole Scholar, Brian conducted research in our laboratory and subsequently completed a doctorate in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University. Brian earned his Master's degree in 2004 and completed his PhD dissertation in 2009. He is a Certified Prosthetists who trained at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System/CSU Dominguez Hills Center (CSUDH) for Orthotics and Prosthetics (2010) and the VA Long Beach Healthcare System’s O&P Service laboratory. Currently, Brian is assistant professor at CSUDH in Research Methods, Gait, and Biomechanics & Kinesiology. Dr. Ruhe continues to conduct research that advances the comfort and function of people with amputations.

1995: Jaime Hardt
Jaime was our first Dole Scholar and studied in our lab prior to his junior year in Environmental Engineering (1997) at Northwestern University. Jaime has cerebral palsy and compared his gait components (walking speed, vertical displacement, step rate, and other aspects) with those of a volunteer who does not have cerebral palsy. He presented his work at a Young Scholars Conference in Washington, D.C. Subsequently, Jaime completed a M.S. (1998) in Civil/Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. Before becoming Senior Consultant, Web Application Designer/Developer, and Business Analyst at TWJ Consulting LLC (Wilmette, IL), Jaime worked for Accenture on Oracle projects in the financial industry. He is experienced in information technology and specializes in application development for business analysis.