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RMCOEH trainee awarded National Science Foundation fellowship

As a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a vital member of its robotics lab, and a trainee in RMCOEH’s Ergonomics and Safety program, Kai Pruyn is focused on the development of groundbreaking exoskeleton technology. With an eye on transforming the lives of people recovering from strokes and injuries, as well as enhancing the productivity of workers, she is aiming to make a significant impact.

Recently, Pruyn's contributions to the field of robotics were realized by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) award. Established to promote excellence in STEM fields and ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States, the NSF GRFP committee chooses fellows using a merit-based review that factors in intellectual merit and the potential to effect positive societal change. The fellowship provides three years of support, empowering recipients like Pruyn to pursue ambitious research endeavors that have far-reaching implications.

The NSF GRFP fellowship will provide Pruyn a $37,000 stipend and a fund to cover her educational expenses, including tuition and fees. This financial support will allows her to focus entirely on her research and development efforts without the burden of financial constraints.

For Pruyn, receiving the NSF GRFP is not just a professional milestone but also a validating personal achievement. "This achievement represents a culmination of the work I have done since joining the HGN Lab for Bionic Engineering as a freshman undergraduate researcher,” she said.“The impact of receiving this fellowship is very personal. It is further confirmation that I made the right decision, and it is an investment in my future as someone who can contribute to meaningful research and change."

Under the direction of Dr. Tommaso Lenzi, a professor in Mechanical Engineering and the director of RMCOEH’s Ergonomics and Safety Program, Pruyn has made significant contributions to the robotics lab. The robotic exoskeletons that she and other members of the lab are developing aim to provide people with mobility impairments and the opportunity to regain independence and functionality.

"My research focuses on developing assistive technologies for individuals with mobility disabilities. This fellowship will make it possible for me to keep working towards that goal, which is incredibly inspiring and exciting," she said.

Pruyn acknowledges the supportive community at RMCOEH, where she began her journey as a first-year PhD student. "Learning from both the students and professors at RMCOEH has taught me to think critically about the work I do and how I can push myself to do the best work possible,” she said. “Their support during my first year made it possible for me to apply to and receive this fellowship and has given me valuable skills to help me succeed."

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