Dawn M. Elliott Ph.D.

Chair of Biomedical Engineering
Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering

161 Colburn Lab
150 Academy Street
Newark, DE 19716
P: 302-831-1295
E: delliott@udel.edu

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.



 (See complete list of Published Work)

  1. Lee AH, Szczesny SE, Santare MH, Elliott DM. Investigating mechanisms of tendon damage by measuring multi-scale recovery following tensile loading. Acta Biomater. 2017 Apr 20. pii: S1742-7061(17)30238-6. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2017.04.011. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:28435080
  2. Szczesny SE, Fetchko KL, Dodge GR, Elliott DM. Evidence that interfibrillar load transfer in tendon is supported by small diameter fibrils and not extrafibrillar tissue components. J Orthop Res. 2017 Jan 10. doi: 10.1002/jor.23517. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:28071819
  3. Gullbrand SE, Malhotra NR, Schaer TP, Zawacki Z, Martin JT, Bendigo JR, Milby AH, Dodge GR, Vresilovic EJ, Elliott DM, Mauck RL, Smith LJ. A large animal model that recapitulates the spectrum of human intervertebral disc degeneration. Osteoarthritis Cartilage pii: S1063-4584(16)30241-2, 2016 doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2016.08.006
  4. DeLucca JF, Peloquin JM, Smith LJ, Wright AC, Vresilovic EJ, Elliott DM. MRI quantification of human spine cartilage endplate geometry: Comparison with age, degeneration, level, and disc geometry, J Orthop Res 34(8):1410-7, 2016, doi: 10.1002/jor.23315
  5. Martin JT, Kim DH, Milby AH, Pfeifer CG, Smith LJ, Elliott DM, Smith HE, Mauck RL. In vivo performance of an acellular disc-like angle ply structure (DAPS) for total disc replacement in a small animal model. J Orthop Res. 2016 May 26. doi: 10.1002/jor.23310. [Epub ahead of print]
  6. DeLucca JF, Cortes DH, Jacobs NT, Vresilovic EJ, Duncan RL, Elliott DM. Human cartilage endplate permeability varies with degeneration and intervertebral disc site, J Biomech 49(4):550-7, 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2016.01.007.
  7. Peloquin JM, Elliott DM. A comparison of stress in cracked fibrous tissue specimens with varied crack location, loading, and orientation using finite element analysis. J Mech Behav Biomed Mater 57:260-268, 2016 doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2015.12.004.
  8. Han WM, Heo SJ, Driscoll TP, Delucca JF, McLeod CM, Smith LJ, Duncan RL, Mauck RL, Elliott DM, Microstructural heterogeneity directs micromechanics and mechanobiology in native and engineered fibrocartilage. Nature Materials 15(4):477-84, 2016, doi: 10.1038/nmat4520
  9. Peloquin JM, Santare MH, Elliott DM. Advances in quantification of meniscus tensile mechanics including nonlinearity, yield, and failure. J Biomech Eng 138(2), 2016, doi: 10.1115/1.4032354.
  10. Showalter BL, DeLucca JF, Peloquin JM, Cortes DH, Yoder JH, Jacobs NT, Wright AC, Gee JC, Vresilovic EJ, Elliott DM. A novel human intervertebral disc strain template to quantify regional three-dimensional strains in a population and compare to internal strains predicted by a finite element model. J Orthop Res 34(7):1264-73, 2016, doi: 10.1002/jor.23137
  11. Szczesny SE, Caplan JL, Pedersen P, Elliott DM, Quantification of interfibrillar shear stress in aligned soft collagenous tissues via notch tension testing, Sci Rep 5:14649, 2015, doi: 10.1038/srep14649
  12. Cortes DH, Suydam SM, Silbernagel KG, Buchanan TS, Elliott DM. Continuous Shear Wave Elastography: A New Method to Measure Viscoelastic Properties of Tendons in Vivo. Ultrasound Med Biol 41(6):1518-29, 2015