Working Visit : Researcher’s Future at UCI Still Unclear

Times Staff Writer

A noted researcher who developed a system to help paraplegics walk has begun his temporary stint as a volunteer clinical professor at UC Irvine, officials said Thursday. But whether Dr. Jerrold Petrofsky plans to remain in California remains unclear.

Spokeswomen for both UCI and Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where Petrofsky heads the National Center for Rehabilitation Engineering, said Thursday that they did not know whether he will sever his ties there and transfer his research to UCI.

Petrofsky’s life and work were the basis for the television movie “First Steps.” A professor of engineering and physiology, Petrofsky developed the Functional Electronic Stimulation system, which uses bursts of low-level current to force paralyzed muscles to contract.


The Dayton campus has Petrofsky listed as on vacation through the end of September, which is the same time that his temporary volunteer work with UCI is scheduled to end.

Wright State University spokeswoman Carol Siyahi said there was “no official word on any changes.”

At UCI, Linda Granell, director of communications, said: “We are discussing a permanent appointment with Dr. Petrofsky. I’m sure a formal offer will be made at some time. But whether he comes or not is up to Dr. Petrofsky.”

As part of the negotiations with Petrofsky, UCI applied to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for a $2-million grant for a 2 1/2-year study on isometric exercise in zero-gravity conditions. The university sought the money in case Petrofsky decided to remain permanently in California.