Meet José Pons, PhD — New Scientific Chair for Legs + Walking Lab

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Meet José Pons, PhD — New Scientific Chair for Legs + Walking Lab

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On June 3, José Pons, PhD, joined Shirley Ryan AbilityLab as the scientific chair of the Legs + Walking Lab. In his new role, Dr. Pons now leads a translational research team — collaborating with Innovation Center clinical chairs and Legs + Walking scientists — to apply the most advanced methods for measuring and restoring lower-limb function in diverse patient populations.

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He is the second high-profile scientist to join our team in a week (Monica Perez, PT, PhD, is our new scientific chair of the Arms + Hands Lab).

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Dr. Pons is a creative engineer with a longstanding history of collaboration with physicians in physical medicine and rehabilitation. He has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and is best known for his work in wearable robotics and neuroprosthetics as applied to patients with spinal cord injury, stroke and Parkinsonism. He has developed methods for studying balance and tremor in patients with Parkinson’s disease; created robotic manipulators and mobility devices for children with cerebral palsy; modified computer cursors for patients with limited mobility; and developed movement sensors for patients who have lost limbs through amputation. His deep knowledge of physics has enabled him to perform fundamental analyses of devices and movement patterns that are generally applicable to any movement disorder.

He has led several major European research initiatives involving multiple countries, cultures and organizations, and he serves in an expert advisory role for the international science agencies in Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Czech Republic, Italy, Iceland and Switzerland. In addition, Dr. Pons serves as associate editor for several journals: Frontiers in Neurology, Frontiers in Neuroscience, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, and IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.

“José is one of the most effective rehabilitation researchers in Europe — he is the director of several large European projects that span 18 countries, 25 academic units and 55 investigators,” Richard L. Lieber, PhD, chief scientific officer and senior vice president, said. “His leadership and ability to collaborate will advance our translational mission tremendously.”

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Dr. Pons built his academic career at the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, or CSIC) in the Cajal Institute, where most recently he was director of the Neural Rehabilitation Group in the Department of Translational Science. CSIC — which is akin to the United States’ National Institutes of Health — is the largest public institution dedicated to research in Spain, and the third-largest in Europe. The Cajal Institute, part of CSIC, is dedicated to the study of neuroscience.

Dr. Pons received his BS in mechanical engineering and PhD in physics from Complutense University of Madrid.

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