Robert Sainburg named Huck Chair in Kinesiology and Neurology

Keith Hickey
October 14, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Robert “Bob” Sainburg, professor of kinesiology and of neurology and director of the Huck Institutes’ Center for Movement Science and Technology, has been named Huck Distinguished Chair in Kinesiology and Neurology.

Robert Sainburg headshot photo

Robert “Bob” Sainburg, professor of kinesiology and of neurology and director of the Huck Institutes’ Center for Movement Science and Technology, has been named Huck Distinguished Chair in Kinesiology and Neurology.

IMAGE: Penn State

Sainburg’s approach to research is deeply rooted in practical, hands-on knowledge of patient rehabilitation experiences. He worked for nearly a decade as a practicing occupational therapist before deciding to pursue a second career as a scientist, seeking to develop a deeper understanding of the neurology at work behind the therapeutic interventions that helped stroke patients recover motor function.

Perhaps due to his uniquely practitioner-minded approach, Sainburg’s research has produced groundbreaking insights into the lateralization of the brain — the mechanisms by which some tasks are compartmentalized to certain regions of the brain and sides of the body. This improved understanding could help provide more comprehensive treatment to restore lost function.

“Dr. Sainburg works on rehabilitation of patients who have had strokes and is currently conducting an NIH-funded clinical trial of a rehabilitative intervention for arm weakness,” said Krishnankutty Sathian, director of the Neuroscience Institute and a colleague at the Penn State College of Medicine. “This is clearly important for those who have suffered from limb weakness after a stroke or other neurological insult.”

Sainburg has kept ties to both the clinical world and academics, maintaining a presence in the College of Medicine in Hershey and the College of Health and Human Development at University Park.

“The kinesiology and neurology departments, the respective dean’s offices at HHD and COM, and the Huck Institutes have been so supportive and forward-thinking in setting up my joint appointment and cross-campus laboratory facilities roughly a decade ago,” said Sainburg. “This spirit of intellectual cooperation has been critical in facilitating my translational line of research, from basic motor control to stroke intervention. I am so appreciative of Penn State for fostering this type of interdisciplinary and creative research environment.”

“I also cannot say enough about the contributions of my collaborators across the scientific community, and my dedicated and bright trainees through the years, who have contributed to and operationalized our research program,” Sainburg added.

Andrew Read, director of Penn State’s Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, sees Sainburg’s research as a model of the kind of discipline-bridging efforts that the Huck is designed to nurture.

“Bob is one of those people doing things in such an expansive and unorthodox way, it’s easy for his outstanding work to slip through the cracks and be missed,” said Read. “We want to make sure that doesn’t happen. I hope that this new title will help to raise the profile of his extraordinary commitment to innovative and impactful research.”

Sainburg obtained his bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from New York University. He later earned a master’s degree in physiology/neurobiology and a doctorate in neuroscience, both from Rutgers. He joined the Penn State faculty in 2000.

The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences supports interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research by offering interdisciplinary graduate programs, operating shared core facilities, supporting strategic research initiatives through faculty co-hires and cluster hires, and supporting dozens of research centers and institutes.

Last Updated October 14, 2021