Academy of Research In Occupational Therapy

AOREstablished in 1983, the AOTF Academy of Research in Occupational Therapy recognizes individuals who have made exemplary, distinguished, and sustained contributions toward the science of occupational therapy. Every year, the Academy of Research invites nominations for membership. After consideration of the nominations and supporting materials, the Academy selects individuals to be inducted into this distinguished body of researchers. Normally, inductions occur at the next AOTA Annual Conference and Exposition.  

View Nomination Procedures



Presentations from 2021 Academy of Research Inductees and 2021 Early & Mid-Career Awardees

2022 Inductees to the Academy

Robert Sainburg, PhD, OTR/L

Robert Sainburg, PhD, OTR/L


Dr. Sainburg is a Professor of Kinesiology and Neurology at Penn State University and Penn State College of Medicine, and Director of the Center for Movement Science and Technology (C-MOST) in the Huck Institute of Life Sciences. He manages two laboratories, the Movement Neuroscience laboratory at Penn State University, department of Kinesiology on the main (University Park) campus and the Neurorehabilitation Research Laboratory at Penn State College of Medicine (Hershey), department of Neurology. His research program is fundamentally translational, focusing on understanding basic neural mechanisms that underlie control, coordination, adaptation, and learning of voluntary movements in humans. A major theme of his research has been neural lateralization for motor control. His research in patient populations addresses the functional neuroanatomy underlying lateralized processes of motor control, and the deficits that occur due to neuronal damage to the associated structures. Dr. Sainburg’s research has led to a model of neural lateralization that attributes different aspects of control to each hemisphere, such that each hemisphere contributes unique control mechanisms to both sides of the body. This bi-hemispheric model of motor control has been able to predict hemisphere-specific deficits in both arms of unilaterally lesioned stroke patients. Most importantly, this work has led to a mechanistic understanding of non-paretic arm (ipsilesional) motor deficits in stroke patients. His current research along with Collaborator Carolee Winstein PT PhD at USC is exploring occupational therapy based clinical intervention that uses virtual reality and real-world training to ameliorate these deficits and improve functional independence in stroke patients. 

Q & A

Identify three words that others have used to describe you.
Irreverent, Energetic, Gregarious 

How do you hope to make a difference in the world through research?
I think that in order to achieve the ideal of translational research in rehabilitation for neural diseases and stroke, it is incredibly important to understand the mechanisms that underlie the neurobehavioral functions that are affected by damage and disease. I have tried to follow a logical progression in delineating the lateralized mechanisms of neural control that underlie voluntary motor behavior through combining techniques of biomechanics, neural imaging, computational simulations, and empirical studies in individuals with and without neurological disease and stroke. This has led from basic mechanism to interventions, and has been tremendously satisfying. However, the greatest impact that I have is in mentoring early stage scientists, including students, post-docs, and faculty. 

What is one piece of advice you have for individuals considering a career in science and research?
As with all things in life, the best reason to pursue something is that you cannot not pursue it. That is, if you are so excited to engage in the experience, and you wake up every morning with that excitement about your interests, then the chances are that your choice is very well made. After all, the best work is play.

Beside your own areas of inquiry, what is one research priority that you believe is important for the future of occupational science and occupational therapy?
I think that it is incredibly important to pursue a better understanding of the cognitive-perceptual-motor interface in humans. This very complex interplay between domains of function is the very basis of the occupational performance that OT’s confront every day. No other rehabilitation professional has taken on this interface as the basis of their professional focus. I believe that it is time for OT’s to claim this incredibly important aspect of human performance, and integrate more specific and detailed studies of these domains into professional training. 

Describe the most important role that mentors played in your professional journey. 
The role of mentors in my professional life has been so incredibly important, and continues to be so important, that answering this question is near impossible, except to say that I have been tremendously lucky to have had absolutely fantastic mentors at all stages of my career.
Identify a favorite occupation that renews you outside of your work.
Hiking, biking, camping, and traveling with family and friends. This includes but is not limited to sampling the world’s best Belgian ales.

What has been the most surprising or rewarding aspects of a career in science and research?
The great privilege of a life in academics and science is the people that you develop friendships with through research. I have some very strong and deep friendships with scientists over the many years of my career. For those young academicians who may be reading this, cherish your professional friendships. These are the people who you will see and interact with over many years, and who share many of your passions. 

Selected References

Mani S, Mutha PK, Przybyla A, Haaland KY, Good D, Sainburg RL. (2013) Contralesional motor deficits after unilateral stroke reflect hemisphere-specific control mechanisms. Brain 136(Pt 4):1288-303.

Sainburg RL. Convergent Models of Handedness and Brain Lateralization, (2014) Frontiers in Psychology, Movement Science and Sport Psychology 5, 1092-1108.

Schaefer SY, Mutha, PK, Haaland, KY, Sainburg, RL. (2012) Hemispheric specialization for movement control produces dissociable differences in online corrections after stroke. Cerebral Cortex 22, 6, 1407-1419.

Sainburg RL, Frey S, Liew SL, and Clark F. (2017) Promoting the translation between movement science and occupational therapy. J Mot Behav 49(1):1-7. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2016.1271299. 

Sainburg RL, Ghilardi MF, Poizner H, Ghez C. (1995) The control of limb dynamics in normal subjects and patients without proprioception. J Neurophysiol. 73, 2, 820-835.

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Members of the Academy of Research

View Full List of Academy of Research Members At-A-Glance. * indicates a deceased member.

Elizabeth June Yerxa, EdD, OTR, FAOTA


Elizabeth June Yerxa, EdD, OTR, FAOTA

Dr. Yerxa is Distinguished Emeritus Professor, Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California. Dr. Yerxa is highly regarded for her contributions to the philosophical base and values of occupational therapy, for her research on life satisfaction of people living with severe disabilities and the nature and management of time, as well as for her work initiating and advocating occupational science research. In 1966, Dr. Yerxa was awarded occupational therapy's highest academic honor, the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Award, and delivered her Slagle Lecture entitled "Authentic Occupational Therapy". She . . . received the AOTA Award of Merit, the highest award from the Association, in 1987. Since 1988 she has been an Emerita Professor at USC. (Retrieved on October 14, 2015 from http://chan.usc.edu/faculty/directory/Elizabeth_Yerxa.)

Dr. Yerxa was named one of the 100 Influential People in Occupational Therapy by AOTA.


Yerxa, EJ. (2009).Infinite distance between the I and the it. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63, 490-497.

Yerxa, EJ. (2002). Habits in context: a synthesis, with implications for research in occupational science. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 22, (Supplement 1), 104S-110S.

Yerxa, E.J. (2000). Occupational science: A renaissance of service to humankind through knowledge. Occupational Therapy International, 7, (2), 87-98.

Yerxa, E.J. (1967). 1966 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture: Authentic occupational therapy. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 21, 1-9.

Yerxa, E. J. (1998). Health and the human spirit for occupation. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 52(6), 412-418.

Jenny Ziviani, PhD, BAppSC(OT), MEd


Jenny Ziviani, PhD, BAppSC(OT), MEd

Jenny Ziviani is the inaugural professor of children's allied health research with Queensland Children's Health Service and The University of Queensland, Australia. Her 30-year background as a clinician, academic and researcher has focused on the well-being of children at risk of a range of physical, developmental and psychosocial conditions, their families and the communities in which they live. As an active researcher, she has successfully managed large national and international competitive grants to a cumulative value in excess of AUS$7million, published over 200 internationally peer viewed articles, 32 book chapters, four books and presented over 210 conference papers.

In supporting the next generation of occupational therapy researchers she has successfully brought to completion 39 doctoral students. She has been awarded the Open Award for Research Excellence, and the Sylvia Docker Award for contribution to the profession by Occupational Therapy Australia.


Identify three words that others have used to describe you.
Questioning; Creative; Collaborative

How do you hope to make a difference in the world through research?
Ensuring that you include those at the core of your research as informers and/or collaborators will mean that you are asking the 'right' questions and will result in findings that are meaningful. Irrespective of how well designed and rigorously executed research is it will never, however, make a difference unless the findings are communicated and applied within the real world. Don't just focus on research without considering a communication and implementation strategy. It is the latter that makes a real difference.

What is one piece of advice you have for individuals considering a career in science and research?
The most meaningful research ideas and questions arise from allowing time for reading, reflecting but more importantly discussing and collaborating with other researchers from diverse fields. Sometime the most meaningful research arises out of the most unexpected collaborations. See research as a creative undertaking that can capture your interest and sustain you for the longer term. Try to enjoy the process and not just focus on the outcome, albeit that the latter should always be celebrated.

Beside your own areas of inquiry, what is one research priority that you believe is important for the future of occupational science and occupational therapy?
My research has always been with children and families but I am very aware that the world in which they live can offer climatic, sociodemographic, political and economic challenges for all of us. I think being aware of the context of our research endeavours means that we need to also offer our occupational perspective to global issues.

Describe the most important role that mentors played in your professional journey.
I have been truly fortunate to be surrounded, by choice as much as accident, scholars who are highly competent, generous and caring. What I have learned and what I hope I pass on to others is the ability to be autonomy supportive. I have been supported to follow my ideas, not all of which have been successful but all of which have helped me grow.

Identify a favorite occupation that renews you outside of your work.
Connecting with nature renews and energizes me. Be it the seaside, mountains or just a river walk in the local neighbourhood, absorbing the richness of environmental sounds and smells always refreshes me. Most of the solutions to my research and professional problems usually appear at these times.

What has been the most surprising or rewarding aspects of a career in science and research?
Without doubt the most rewarding aspect has the calibre of the people with whom I have been privileged to work in my academic life. Anyone who is an academic will know that there are many challenges, personal and organisational, which can be very disheartening. Colleagues who are generous in spirit are really the fuel that sustains a long academic life. Being able to share my academic life with a wonderful supportive husband has been a real bonus as has having a son who can bring me back to earth with a sharp, witty one-liner.



Ashburner, J., Ziviani, J. & Rodger, S. (2010) Surviving in the Mainstream: Capacity of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to perform academically and regulate their emotions and behavior at school, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 4, 18-27 . doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2009.07.002

Miller, L., Ziviani, J., Ware, R. & Boyd, R. (2014) Mastery motivation in children with congenital hemiplegia: individual and environmental associations. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 56, 267-274. DOI: 10.1111/dmcn.12356

Pont, K., Ziviani, J., Wadley, D. & Abbott, R. (2011). The Model of Children's Active Travel (M-CAT): a conceptual framework for examing factors influencing children's active travel. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 58, 138-144. (published on line, doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1630.2010.00865.x)

Sakzewski, L., Ziviani, J., Abbott, D., MacDonell, R., Jackson, G. & Boyd, R. (Accepted 20/10/2010). Randomized trial of constraint-induced movement therapy and bimanual training on activity outcomes for children with congenital hemiplegia. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 53(4), 313-320. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2010.03859.x