My Cool Stem Career

“The first time I ever heard the words kinesiology and biomechanics was on this e-mail,” says Cooper. The astronaut recommended that he pursue engineering as an undergraduate student so that he could get the technical background in mechanics and physics and then move on to graduate school for more instruction in biological studies, training philosophies, and anatomy. “That is exactly what I did. I’m here today, doing exactly what I wanted to do, based on this astronaut’s e-mail.”

But not everyone was as helpful. During his first couple of years in college Cooper struggled with the transition and his grades suffered. By his junior and senior years he got his stride back and began to excel academically. A guidance counselor told him that because of his earlier grades applying to graduate school would be a waste of time. “This was mind-blowing to me,” says Cooper “Fortunately, I didn’t listen to him.”

His senior year Cooper compiled a list of every biomechanics program in North America and in the United Kingdom, and e-mailed every full-time, adjunct, and tenured faculty in those programs.

He was accepted to every program that he applied to with the exception of one school and eventually received a fully funded graduate assistantship that included the cost of tuition to Boise State University. There he conducted a study to evaluate shoe surface interaction of athletic shoes on artificial surfaces for the National Football League, and graduated in the top of his class.

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