Neil Duncan

Professor Emeritus

Department of Civil Engineering

PhD - Mechanical Engineering

McGill University

BEng (Honours) - Mechanical Engineering and Minor in Aeronautical Engineering

McGill University

Contact information


Office: 403.220.8553

Web presence

Personal website


CNRL Engineering Complex : ENF 210



Mechanics of Solids and Structures (ENCI 461)


Theory and Applications of the Finite Element Method (ENCI 653

Preferred method of communication

Please contact me by email

Research and teaching

Research areas

  • Regenerative medicine
  • Biomechanics

Research activities

Orthopaedic bioengineering

Research aims to understand and quantify the mechanobiology transduction pathways which drive biological adaptation to mechanical stimulus in musculoskeletal tissues such as intervertebral disc, tendon, bone and cartilage, as well as in 3D stem cell seeded constructs for tissue engineering. In collaboration with biologists, engineers and surgeons, this research aims to provide a mechanistic understanding of mechanobiological factors in orthopaedic disorders, and provide the basic knowledge needed for the development of novel approaches to quantitative diagnostics and tissue engineered treatments.

Multiscale mechanobiology

Imaging technologies of confocal and multi-photon microscopy, laser tweezers/scissors, optical coherence tomography, and ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging are used in combination with uniquely designed multiscale loading devices, computational modeling and molecular biology for investigations across multiple scales in various musculoskeletal tissues.


Dr. Neil Duncan's background is in mechanical engineering with a specific interest and expertise in multiscale mechanics, mechanobiology, imaging and tissue engineering of musculoskeletal tissues. He holds a BEng (H) in mechanical engineering, with a minor in aeronautical engineering, and a PhD in mechanical engineering, both from McGill. He also received training as a research associate/post-doctoral fellow in bioengineering in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. Contributions to bioengineering research have been made in a number of areas of the spine, knee and various tissues, related to intervertebral disc degeneration, scoliosis, low back pain and osteoarthritis.

His research has been funded by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR), Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS), Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF), Canada Research Chairs (CRC), Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Whitaker Foundation. 


Phelps, J., Sanati-Nehzad, A., Ungrin, M., Duncan, N.A. and Sen A. (2018) Bioprocessing of mesenchymal stem cells and their derivatives: toward cell-free therapeutics. Stem Cells International 2018:1-23.

Hazenbiller, O., Nasr, S., Krawetz, R.J. and Duncan, N.A. (2018) Effect of mechanical strain on the pluripotency of murine embryonic stem cells seeded in a collagen-I scaffold. Journal of Orthopaedic Research 36: 799-807.

Damaraju, S., Matyas, J.R., Rancourt, D.E. and Duncan, N.A. (2015) The role of gap junctions and mechanical loading on mineral formation in a collagen-I scaffold seeded with osteoprogenitor cells. Tissue Engineering Part A 21: 1720-1732.

Duncan, N.A., Bruehlmann, S.B., Hunter, C.J., Shao, X. and Kelly, E.J. (2014) In situ cell-matrix mechanics in tendon fascicles and seeded collagen gels: implications for the multi-scale design of biomaterials. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering 17: 39-47.

Desrochers, J. and Duncan, N.A. (2014) Intercellular communication via gap junctions affected by mechanical load in the bovine annulus fibrosus. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering 17: 64-71.

Nasr, S., Hunt, S. and Duncan, N.A. (2013) Effect of screw position on bone tissue differentiation within a fixed femoral fracture. Journal of Biomedical Science and Engineering 6: 71-83.

Villemure, I., Cloutier, L., Matyas, J.R. and Duncan, N.A. (2007) Non-uniform strain distribution within rat cartilaginous growth plate under uniaxial compression. Journal of Biomechanics 40: 149-56.

Duncan, N.A. (2006) Cell deformation and micromechanical environment in the intervertebral disc. AAOS Workshop on Intervertebral Disc Degeneration, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 88 (Supplement 2): 47-51.

Hunter, C.J., Matyas, J.R., Duncan, N.A. (2004) Cytomorphology of notochordal and chondrocytic cells from the nucleus pulposus: a species comparison.  Journal of Anatomy 205: 357-362.

Bruehlmann, S.B., Matyas, J.R. and Duncan, N.A. (2004) ISSLS Prize Winner: Collagen fibril sliding governs cell mechanics in the annulus fibrosus: an in situ confocal microscopy study of bovine discs.  Spine 29: 2612-2620.

Wilson, J.R., Duncan, N.A., Giles, W.R. and Clark, R.B. (2004) Characterization of a voltage-dependent K+ current in acutely-isolated canine articular chondrocytes. Journal of Physiology 557: 93-104.

Bruehlmann, S.B., Hulme, P.A. and Duncan, N.A. (2004) In situ intercellular mechanics of the bovine outer annulus fibrosus subjected to biaxial strains. Journal of Biomechanics 37: 223-231.

Hunter, C.J., Matyas, J.R. and Duncan, N.A. (2003) The notochordal cell in the nucleus pulposus: a review in the context of tissue engineering. Tissue Engineering 9: 667-677.

Miller-Young, J.E., Duncan N.A. and Baroud G. (2002) Material properties of the human calcaneal fat pad in compression: experiment and theory. Journal of Biomechanics 35:1523-31.

Bruehlmann, S.B., Rattner, J.B., Matyas, J.R. and Duncan, N.A. (2002) Regional variations in the cellular matrix of the annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc. Journal of Anatomy 201: 159-171.

Lotz, J.C., Colliou, O.K., Chin, J.R., Duncan, N.A. and Liebenberg, E. (1998) Compression-induced degeneration of the intervertebral disc: an in vivo mouse model and finite element study. Spine 23: 2493-2506.


Teaching Awards, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2011, 2019

Simpleware Prize, Research in Imaging and Visualization, CMBBE, 2015

Discovery Accelerator Supplement, NSERC, 2010-13

ISSLS Prize, Best Research Paper Spine Bioengineering, 2004

Canada Research Chair in Orthopaedic Bioengineering (Tier II, NSERC), 2002-12

Volvo Award, Best Research Paper Spine Biomechanics, 1998