Kyle Winfree
Kyle Winfree, UD doctoral student, conducts tests of the PDShoe at the Newark Senior Center in Delaware.

Kyle Winfree is a perfect example of the bridge between engineering and human health, and he found the perfect home for his passion in UD’s Biomechanics and Movement Science (BIOMS) program. The BIOMS program—which includes faculty from the colleges of Health Sciences, Engineering, and Arts and Sciences—offers graduate students the opportunity to study in a variety of areas that cross traditional academic boundaries.

When Winfree first arrived at UD as a doctoral student, he joined Sunil Agrawal’s research group in the Mechanical Systems Lab, where he worked on an actively driven leg exoskeleton known as ALEX. The robotic device can modulate foot movement using motors at the joints, helping stroke survivors regain leg function and improve their walking ability.

“My bachelor’s degree is in physics, and I have a master’s in robotics,” Winfree says. “While I enjoyed the technical aspects of both of these disciplines, neither dealt much with people. When I had the opportunity to work with stroke patients in Dr. Agrawal’s research program, I jumped at the chance.”

After Winfree had worked on ALEX for a year or so, Agrawal approached him with a new idea—the PDShoe. Winfree teamed with David Hilgart, who had conducted undergraduate research with Agrawal on the project at UD and is now a graduate student in bio- engineering at the University of Utah. Again, Winfree welcomed the challenge of matching the engineering to the biological challenge.

But just how did Winfree become interested in working with Agrawal in the first place?

Well, that’s a longer story.

He explains that his parents live in Anchorage, Alaska, where they saw an article about Agrawal’s work on infant mobility with physical therapy professor Cole Galloway at UD.

“As soon as I read that story, I knew I wanted to work with Sunil,” he says. “I wanted to do research with impact.”

Like Agrawal, whose projects touch on both ends of the lifespan, Winfree plans to come full circle when he finishes his Ph.D.

“I’d love to work at CHOP [Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia],” he says. “I’m really interested in kids and mobility. If you can get people mobile, they’re much more likely to reach their true potential and become invested in society.”