Inclusive sportswear designer joins academy of inventors

Sokolowski working with product design students on adaptive sports apparel projects.

Susan Sokolowski, a University of Oregon professor and director of the Sports Product Design Program, has been elected to the 2021 class of fellows of the National Academy of Inventors.

Sokolowski is the first Oregon woman to be named a fellow of the academy. The honor recognizes her contributions to the design of products for special populations, including women, children, people of extended sizes, aging populations and disabled athletes.

She is also the first recipient of funding from the newly launched Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance, a global effort to promote wellness and peak performance through scientific discovery and innovation, a research alliance that includes the UO as one of six founding institutions.

Susan Sokolowski“It is a great honor to be inducted into the National Academy of Inventors,” Sokolowski said. “As a female inventor who specializes in product design for underserved users, it means a lot to be recognized by the academy.”

Sokolowski joined the Sports Product Design Program at the UO in 2015 after a 17-year career at Nike researching and developing materials and designs for performance sporting goods. A designer internationally recognized for her achievements, Sokolowski holds 44 U.S. utility and design patents and 62 international patents.

Her research projects at the UO improve performance apparel through the use of anthropometrics, a discipline of human factors engineering that describes the body shape and size of different populations, like men, women, and children of specific ages and ethnicities.

“My work looks at helping underserved users push their limits in performance, through the research and products I create,” she said. “I am particularly proud of the work that I have done for female athletes, firefighters, military personnel and health care workers, along with aging and adaptive users.”

Sokolowski joins a class of 164 academy fellows, who represent 116 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes worldwide. They collectively hold more than 4,800 U.S. patents.

At the UO, other faculty members elected to the academy in the past several years include Robert Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact as a fellow, and Shawn Lockery, a professor of biology and Keat Ghee Ong, a professor of biochemistry at the Knight Campus as senior members of the academy.

The National Academy of Inventors was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with U.S. patents, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

“Through her innovative and envelope-pushing work, Susan proves that the need for high-performance sportswear isn’t limited to elite athletes,” said Cass Moseley, interim vice president for research and innovation at UO. “Susan’s inclusive designs meet the technical and professional needs of all people, regardless of age or ability level.”

—By Kelley Christensen, Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation