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Carlo J. De Luca Emerging Scientist Award

Professor Carlo J. De Luca was a scientist of remarkable vision

His career began with a passionate curiosity for understanding how muscles are controlled by the brain to produce force and movement.

Recognizing that manual approaches for processing electromyographic (EMG) signals could only ever give a partial understanding of neuromuscular control, he diverged from the mainstream thinking and set out to engineer new technology.

Using the latest signal processing and AI techniques of the time (that is the 1970’s), he designed a new approach to automatically extract the action potentials of multiple concurrently active motor units from the EMG signal – introducing the first ever EMG decomposition technology.

The impact of this innovation was profound. It led Professor De Luca and his team to several major scientific contributions including the discovery of the onion skin property of motor unit firing rates, the abrogation of the notion of common inputs between all motor units and the relation between motor unit firing behavior and muscle mechanics to understand fatigue. With more than 20,000 citations, these discoveries are among those that have most dramatically reshaped the movement sciences in the last century.

Today, EMG decomposition has evolved into a modern noninvasive dEMG technology that is poised for new applications in dynamic activities such as gait and exercise. Like any successful technology, dEMG has inspired researchers across the world to follow in the footsteps of Professor De Luca to provide independent verification of his great discoveries.

As we honor his life and work, we are mindful that our retrospective lens may too easily overlook the struggle Professor De Luca endured against critics driven by ideological mainstream thinking. Yet his perseverance set an example for us to emulate what was best characterized by the former President Theodore Roosevelt of the United States of America:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”

Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship In A Republic.” 23 April 1910, Paris, France.

The Carlo J. De Luca Emerging Scientist Award seeks to inspire young researchers to challenge ideological group thinking and forward scientific discoveries through rigorous empirical inquiry. Congratulations to our recipients!

The De Luca Foundation.

Emerging Scientist Award