My Cool Stem Career

Ben Cooper, footwear developer, Footwear Performance Laboratory at Natick Soldier Systems Center (Photo by Lonnie C. Major)

Ben Cooper
B.S., Biomedical Physics, Northeastern University
M.S., Exercise Science and Sports Studies,
Concentration Biomechanics, Boise State University

At 28-years-old, Ben Cooper, a footwear developer in the Footwear Performance Laboratory at Natick Soldier Systems Center, is the lead project engineer for the Army and provides technical support to the Marines and Air Force. Current projects include his team’s continued development of a hot-weather mountain combat boot that offers greater breathability without compromising key performance features such as ankle stability, traction, and durability—a necessity for soldiers deployed to the rugged mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

For Cooper, no two days are the same. One day he could be working with boot manufacturers, the next day in a different city with material suppliers, or at his desk updating and improving technical specifications for any one of the many combat boots issued to military personnel. Many of the boots designed by his team are even available commercially.

Similar to his childhood hero, the fictional television character MacGyver, Cooper was a curious kid known to rip apart a remote control car or imagine games that required him to escape from far-fetched situations using only a hair pin and problem solving skills. But it was his days as a high school soccer and track athlete that most influenced him to pursue a degree in biomedical physics.

Cooper, a three-year Rhode Island All-State track champion, was always interested in maximizing his abilities. He started reading more on the subject of proper running mechanics and human performance. A quick Internet search led him to an astronaut who worked in that field. He e-mailed the NASA expert and received a response that he parlayed into a career.

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