2014 Alumni of the Year

Dr. Elliott Rouse Is Shaking Up Views on Disability

During his time as an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering at The Ohio State University, (B.S. Mechanical Engineering in 2007), Elliott worked full-time as a mechanic/engineer for an international autoracing team. He traveled throughout North America and Western Europe, in a job that he thought would be the pinnacle of high-performance engineering. However, he began to feel compelled to pursue a career that had a greater impact on humanity. He left autoracing and began to study the biomedical aspects of engineering at Northwestern University. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D degrees in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

Two reasons compelled Elliott to pursue the research and development of bionic technology. Firstly, he seeks to impact people’s lives through the application of novel, wearable robotic technologies. Such research and development has the opportunity to increase the quality of life of the disabled, as well as push the limits of non-disabled human performance. Secondly, he was drawn to his current field because there are many interesting technical challenges to address.

Currently, Elliott is employed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Postdoctoral Fellow. He is responsible for leading research and development of technology that advances human function. His primary research interests include wearable robotics, biomedical system dynamics and identification, human motor control and medical device design. He is passionate about understanding how the nervous system regulates joint dynamic mechanical properties during movement. His goal is to use this understanding to forward the design of advanced technologies to assist and augment human function. Over the years, Elliott’s  research has been featured on the Discovery Channel, CNN, National Public Radio, Wired Magazine UK and Business Insider.

Additionally, he seeks to understand the biophysical processes that underlie such technology. The most rewarding aspect of his career is testing research technologies that he has developed with patients. Their excitement and input is one of the highlights of his days and years as a scientist. For example, he has been working with one of the Boston Marathon bombing victims. Each time he tests with this individual, he is moved and inspired by their passion and resilience. Very recently, he and his team demoed a bionic dancing technology at the TED Conference in Vancouver, BC, built for this same Boston Marathon bombing survivor.

Elliott has been  happily married to WCS alumna Rachel (Van Fleet) Rouse (2002) for over six years. She has been a major source of encouragement and support during their time in Chicago and now, Boston.