Contact Info


Dawn M. Elliott Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
 of Biomedical Engineering


161 Colburn Lab
150 Academy Street
Newark, DE 19716


Lab Website



Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, 1999, Duke University


M.S. Engineering Mechanics, 1995, University of Cincinnati


B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1988, University of Michigan




Biomechanics of collagenous soft tissues


Intervertebral disc function, degeneration, restoration



Dr. Elliott studies the biomechanical function of orthopaedic soft tissues in health, aging, degeneration, injury and healing. Her primary focus is the intervertebral disc, which supports and distributes loads and permits motions of the spine. She also studies other tissues including tendon, ligament, meniscus, and articular cartilage.


With age, the intervertebral disc undergoes progressive and irreversible degenerative changes that often lead to low back pain. Surgical treatment options are extremely limited and do not restore disc function. To describe the complex material behaviors of these tissues, including anisotropy, nonlinearity, inhomogeneity, and viscoelasticity, Dr. Elliott primarily uses mathematical models and mechanical tests. The mathematical models are applied to the study of human tissue as well as animal models which mimic human conditions. Mathematical models and mechanical tests, in combination with biochemical composition and microstructural measurements, lead to a better understanding of tissue function as well as the mechanisms for degeneration, injury and healing. In addition, the detailed knowledge of material behaviors gained through these methods is valuable in the development and evaluation of new treatments, such as surgical repair and tissue engineering.



Szczesny SE, Elliott DM, Incorporating plasticity of the interfibrillar matrix in shear lag models is necessary to replicate the multiscale mechanics of tendon fascicles, J Mech Behav Biomed Mater 40:325-38, 2014


Yoder JH, Peloquin JM, Song G, Tustison NJ, Moon SM, Wright AC, Vresilovic EJ, Gee JC, Elliott DM, Internal three-dimensional strains in human intervertebral discs under axial compression quantified noninvasively by magnetic resonance imaging and image registration, J Biomech Eng 136(11), 2014


Jacobs NT, Cortes DH, Peloquin JP, Vresilovic EJ, Elliott DM, Validation and application of an intervertebral disc finite element model utilizing independently constructed tissue-level constitutive formulations that are nonlinear, anisotropic, and time-dependent, J Biomechanics 47(11):2540-6, 2014


Showalter BL, Malhotra NR, Vresilovic EJ, Elliott DM, Nucleotomy increases hypermobility and reduces the hydration effects of cyclic compressive loading with unloaded recovery on human intervertebral discs, J Biomechanics 47(11):2633-40, 2014


Cortes DH, Elliott DM, Accurate prediction of stress in fibers with distributed orientations using generalized high-order structure tensors, Mechanics of Materials 75:73-83, 2014


Han WM, Heo SJ, Driscoll TP, Boggs ME, Duncan RL, Mauck RL, Elliott DM, Impact of cellular microenvironment and mechanical perturbation on calcium signalling in meniscus fibrochondrocytes. Eur Cell Mater 27:321-31, 2014


Peloquin JM, Yoder JH, Jacobs NT, Moon SM, Wright AC, Vresilovic EJ, Elliott DM, Human L3-L4 intervertebral disc mean 3D shape, modes of variation, and their relationship to degeneration, J Biomechanics, 2014


Martin JT, Milby AH, Chiaro JA, Kim DH, Hebela NM, Smith LJ, Elliott DM, Mauck RL, Translation of an engineered nanofibrous disc-like angle ply structure for intervertebral disc replacement in a small animal model, Acta Biomater 10(6):2473-81, 2014


Szczesny SE, Elliott DM, Interfibrillar shear stress is the loading mechanism of collagen fibrils in tendon, Acta Biomater 10(6):2582-90, 2014


Cortes DH, Jacobs NT, Delucca JF, Elliott DM, Elastic, permeability and swelling properties of human intervertebral disc tissues: a benchmark for tissue engineering, J Biomechanics 47(9):2088-94, 2014