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In Memory of Kevin Granata

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  • In Memory of Kevin Granata

    Dear Biomch-L Subscribers,

    Below is a memorial and summary of Dr. Kevin Granata's life's work.
    It was written by one of his close friends and collaborators, Dr.
    Mark Abel, who is a professor of Orthopaedics here at the University
    of Virginia.

    In Memory of Kevin Granata

    On April 16, 2007 a gunman killed 33 students and faculty on the
    campus of Virginia Tech. One of those killed was Dr. Kevin P.
    Granata, an engineer scientist who worked with me for 6 years at the
    University of Virginia. Kevinís last post was Norris Hall at Virginia
    Tech but his legacy lives on. My intent is to leave grief behind and
    focus on the important contributions and life of Dr. Kevin Granata.

    Like most successful people, Kevin Granata was determined, tough,
    disciplined and highly educated. His Ohio upbringing included farm
    work, carpentry, athletics and of course academics. Clearly self-
    sufficiency and the acquisition of a broad knowledge base were the
    themes stressed at home and that made him unique in his professional
    life. Although based in engineering science, his interests
    ultimately gravitated to Ďmotor controlí and his discoveries were in
    ergonomics, neurology and sports medicine. However, Kevin never lost
    focus of the big picture; he was the consummate educator and family man.

    Dr. Granata received a B.S. in Engineering Science from Ohio State,
    and then pursued a Masterís in Physics at Purdue University. In
    addition to his academics endeavors, Kevin found time to be on the
    crew team and to meet his wife, Linda, at Purdue. Kevin worked for
    the Navy in submarine technology through the Johns Hopkins Applied
    Physiology Laboratory. One of his first publications dealt with
    measurements of low level noise coming from ships. In 1989, he
    returned to Ohio State University to acquire a PhD in biomechanics.
    Ultimately this took him to Dr. William Marras and the Biodynamics
    Laboratory where Dr. Granata worked to define and measure reflex
    responses to loads and the relationship to trunk stability. This work
    was important in helping to understand causes and prevention of back
    injury in the work place. The hope was that deficiencies in trunk
    reflex responses to load could be identified and that training
    programs and/or braces prescribed to correct the deficits and prevent
    injury. Dr. Granata received several federally funded grants for this
    work and he continued this line of investigation to the day of his
    death.

    In 1997, after his post-doctoral work, he was recruited by the
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery of the University of Virginia to be
    the Research Director of the Motion Analysis and Motor Performance
    Laboratory. He held a joint appointment in Biomedical Engineering.
    He focused his keen mind on expanding his research in human movement
    to understand how brain injury for children with cerebral palsy
    interfered with balance and movement. He worked with me and Diane
    Damiano, PhD (now at Washington University, St. Louis) to understand
    ankle and knee coupling in cerebral palsy and in determining ways to
    quantify threshold joint velocities during spastic gait. The
    importance of this work was to allowed us to quantify specific
    control deficits and then to see if treatments altered them. We
    evaluated the impact of muscle-tendon surgery and the neurosurgical
    procedure popular at the time, selective dorsal rhizotomy.

    During his six years at University of Virginia (UVA), he published
    extensively on movement dynamics, joint stability and relationship to
    injury as well as adaptations to spastic movement constraints. His
    successes in research and teaching quickly brought him tenure. He
    was an outstanding resource for graduate students in mechanics,
    bioengineering, sports medicine and orthopaedics. Dr. Granataís
    research vision was to develop a center to study the essence of human
    movement and how machines, braces and walking devices could be
    developed to overcome human disability. In 2003, he started the
    Musculoskeletal Biomechanics lab at Virginia Tech where he held the
    rank of Professor of Engineering Science & Mechanics at the time of
    his death. At Virginia Tech, Dr. Granata resumed work on the
    dynamics of body trunk stability and the influence of walking speed
    on trunk stability.

    Dr. Granata was recognized as a top notch academic scientist at the
    University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. His broad educational
    experience and extremely logical and insightful approach made him a
    popular research collaborator. Indeed he fostered inter-
    institutional research with both University of Virginia and several
    other universities across the country. He was a leader in the
    American Society of Biomechanics and also active in the American
    Society of Mechanical Engineering, the Gait and Clinical Movement
    Society and Human Factors, and the Ergonomics Society. He was also
    associate editor of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics and the
    Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology.

    All that knew Kevin Granata can attest to his keen mind
    and practical approach to scientist. Research and life are both
    approached through incremental stages in which we strive to advance
    knowledge. No one would argue that Dr. Granata was on an upward
    trajectory of sequential improvements and advancements in both areas.
    His contributions include not only the 50 plus articles in the
    literature but also the many students he mentored have moved on to
    influence others. Of course he also has his family including his wife
    Linda and their 3 beautiful and bright children to round out a
    wonderful and perpetual legacy of his lifeís work.

    Mark F. Abel, M.D.

    Alfred R. Shands, Jr. Professor
    Orthopaedic Surgery & Pediatrics
    Director, Motion Analysis & Motor Performance Laboratory
    The University of Virginia
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