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President Valerie Smith's Charge to Francisco Valero-Cuevas '88

Francisco Valero-Cuevas '88 receiving honorary degree


Francisco Valero-Cuevas, Swarthmore College Class of 1988, is a biomedical engineer who has revolutionized our understanding of the relationship between humans and machines.

His interdisciplinary approach to biomedicine has resulted in far-reaching innovations, from inventions that improve the quality of life for limited-mobility patients, to the development of a robot, powered not by code but by artificial neurons.

In addition to his research, Francisco is a dedicated teacher and mentor. He has actively sought to attract a more diverse population of students to STEM fields and is the founder of Acceso Academy, a non-profit that provides affordable college test prep assistance for students from under-resourced high schools and communities in Los Angeles.

Francisco, in your bold research, inspiring teaching, and dedicated mentorship, you embody the defining values of Swarthmore’s founders.

And now, upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Sciences.

Francisco Valero-Cuevas ’88 is a biomedical engineer who uses his training to improve the quality of life for people who have limited use of their bodies and hands.

A professor of biomedical engineering, biokinesiology, and physical therapy at the University of Southern California, he is best known for his work that combines multiple fields to understand how the brain controls the body, and its clinical and robotic applications. He directs the Brain-Body Dynamics Lab, which is dedicated to understanding the biomechanics, neuromuscular control, and clinical rehabilitation of human function, and developing the fields of neuromechanics and neurorobotics.

In the early 2000s, Valero-Cuevas invented an important strength-dexterity test, and he has gone on to invent implants to restore grasp function and mechanisms for the construction of archways in civil engineering. His other inventions include implants to restore grasp function and mechanisms for the construction of archways in civil engineering. Recently, he published the book Fundamentals of Neuromechanics.

For his accomplishments, Valero-Cuevas received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award in 2003, was elected senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2013, and was inducted to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers in 2014. He has also co-founded two nonprofits promoting the education and cultural integration of underrepresented minorities as well as a technology startup.

Valero-Cuevas came to Swarthmore from Mexico City and graduated with a B.S. in engineering. Following graduation, he lived in India and Nepal on a Watson Fellowship studying Sankhya yoga philosophy. He also received an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Queen’s University in Ontario and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. Before joining USC in 2007, he was a tenured associate professor at Cornell University.