Building Bionics
How technologies are going to enhance the human body and end physical disability

Gould Lecture on Technology and the Quality Of Life

Dr. Tommaso Lenzi, Ph.D.

The field of bionics presents a unique opportunity to address the unmet needs of millions of individuals living with physical disabilities. Critical to this goal is the development of artificial systems and technologies that can merge with the human body – restoring, replacing or augmenting its capabilities.

In this talk, Dr. Tommaso Lenzi, Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a Core Faculty in the Robotics Center at University of Utah, and the Director of the Ergonomics and Safety Program at the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, will present ongoing work at his robotics lab — the Hans Georg Näder (HGN) Lab for Bionic Engineering — to advance the science of bionics. He will describe novel electromechanical designs that will empower next-generation bionic limbs to match the strength and speed of biological legs. He will demonstrate intelligent control systems that synchronize the movements of the bionic leg with the human nervous system, enabling individuals with amputation to perform activities that are impossible with conventional prostheses. Finally, Dr. Lenzi will discuss critical challenges and areas of future research that must advance for bionics to become a part of our lives.

One of Lenzi’s projects is the Utah Bionic Leg, a computerized and motorized prosthetic for leg amputees. The Utah Bionic Leg uses custom-designed sensors and motors to move like a biological leg. Based on real-time data from the custom sensors, the leg provides power to the motors in the joints to assist in walking, standing up, walking up and down stairs, or maneuvering around obstacles. The sensors, processors, motors, transmission system, and robotic joints enable users to control the prosthetic intuitively and continuously, as if it was an intact biological leg. The Utah Bionic Leg’s advanced controllers, fine-tuned machinery, lightweight components, and patient-centered design has the potential to make life better for millions of people living with leg amputation.


Dr. Lenzi received his Ph.D. degree in Biorobotics from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in 2013 and his MS degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pisa in 2008. At the University of Utah, he directs the HGN Lab for Bionic Engineering, where he conducts research sponsored by Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Health. His main research interests include robotics, mechatronics, and rehabilitation medicine with a major emphasis on the design and control of wearable robots for human assistance and rehabilitation. He serves as Associate Editor for IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, the International Conferences on Rehabilitation Robotics (ICORR), and Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics (BIOROB). Dr. Lenzi has co-authored more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific publications and nine patents. Dr. Lenzi received the NSF CARREER Award in 2021.


The William R. and Erlyn J. Gould Distinguished Lecture on Technology and the Quality of Life was inaugurated October 7, 1992, at the University of Utah Marriott Library.

In establishing the lecture series, Bill and Erlyn Gould both recognized the critical need for continuing public education about issues regarding modern technology and its impact on our daily lives. The lecture series is intended to provide a forum for the discussion of problems, issues, experiences, and successful case histories of the regeneration and preservation of our communities through the application of modern technology.

Past speakers in the series have included U mechanical engineering professor Kam Leang and Gretchen McClain, NASA’s former chief director of the International Space Station program and U mechanical engineering alumna. Past Gould lectures dating back to 1992 can be found here.