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Dawn Elliott is the inaugural recipient of the Orthopaedic Research Society’s Adele L. Boskey, PhD Award.
Dawn Elliott is the inaugural recipient of the Orthopaedic Research Society’s Adele L. Boskey, PhD Award.

Leadership in biomedical engineering

Photo by Evan Krape

UD’s Dawn Elliott honored by Orthopaedic Research Society

Some professors shine most brightly in the lab. Others are particularly excellent mentors, inspiring students and other faculty members to reach new heights in their careers. Then, there are those who excel at both.

Dawn Elliott, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware, is being recognized as one of those multitalented academics. Elliott, a Blue and Gold Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is the inaugural recipient of the Orthopaedic Research Society’s Adele L. Boskey, PhD Award.

“The University of Delaware Department of Biomedical Engineering started only eight years ago, and we have already had tremendous research and discovery impact on health and disease,” said Elliott. “Moreover, we are educating the next generation of biomedical engineers who will go on the make the world a healthy place and improve the quality of people’s lives.”

This new award was established in memory of the late Dr. Boskey, a past president of the Orthopaedic Research Society who was committed to mentorship and made important contributions to the fundamental understanding of biomineralization and bone disorders. The Adele L. Boskey, PhD Award recognizes a mid-career member of the Orthopaedic Research Society for outstanding and sustained commitment to mentorship and a demonstrated track record of an upward trajectory and impactful research program. 

“Dr. Elliott exemplifies the traits Adele inspired us to achieve, including integrity, being a strong role model for mentees, and inclusiveness in research, and she is clearly very deserving of this honor,” said Nancy Pleshko, professor of bioengineering at Temple University. “Dr. Elliott has been an exemplary mentor to her students, and has been committed through outreach and education to inspire women to join and be successful in both engineering and orthopaedics. Through her leadership, including as department chair at University of Delaware, and as current president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, she has gone above and beyond expectations to create educational opportunities and a diverse intellectual community.”

Elliott is a distinguished researcher, leader and mentor. After 12 years on the faculty in orthopedic surgery and bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, she joined UD in 2011 as the founding director and sole primary faculty member of the biomedical engineering program. The program achieved departmental status and received national accreditation four years later.

Today, UD’s biomedical engineering department has 12 faculty members, including two National Science Foundation Career Award winners, and over 40 affiliated faculty. In fall 2018, the biomedical engineering program at UD had 240 undergraduate students and 45 doctoral students. Alumni of the program have gone on to found startups, work for companies such as Siemens or W.L. Gore, pursue graduate degrees at schools such as Stanford and Columbia Universities, and much more.

In addition to her role as chair of a fast-growing biomedical engineering department, Elliott is president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, a professional society for biomedical engineering and bioengineering with more than 7,000 members. She assumed the role of president in October 2018 and will serve for two years. She has also held leadership roles in the Orthopaedic Research Society and the Bioengineering Division of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

While serving as a leader in her field, Elliott has continued to maintain an active research program in the biomechanics of fibrous tissues such as tendon and spine, including injury, aging  and restoration. For example, in a new paper in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, she and colleagues at UD described a new framework for modeling viscoelasticity, deformation and damage in soft tissue. Elliott and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania also recently described the development of tissue-engineered intervertebral discs that could someday be used to help people with back or neck pain.

In 2015, Elliott received the Van C. Mow Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for contributions to the field of bioengineering. That year, she also received the Inaugural Outstanding Achievement in Mentoring Award from the Orthopaedic Research Society. Elliott is heavily involved with the Perry Initiative, a nonprofit organization aimed at inspiring women to become leaders in orthopedic surgery and biomedical engineering.

Elliott received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in engineering mechanics at the University of Cincinnati and a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering at Duke University.

Elliott is a fellow of both the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and ASME.

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