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Neil Duncan


Faculty Professor

Schulich School of Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering

Adjunct Associate Professor

Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Surgery

Full Member

McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health

Full Member

Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program

Contact information

Phone number

Office: +1 (403) 220-8553


Office: ENF210
Lab: HRIC3B35



PEng, APEGA, 2006

Educational Background

PDF Orthopaedic Biomedical Engineering, University of California, San Francisco, 1997

PhD Mechanical Engineering, McGill University, 1997

BEng (H) Mechanical Engineering, Minor: Aeronautical Engineering, McGill University, 1986


My background is in mechanical engineering with a specific research interest and expertise in multiscale mechanics (experimental and computational), mechanobiology, imaging and tissue engineering of musculoskeletal tissues. My teaching has been in the area of mechanics, biomechanics, structural engineering and finite element analysis.

I hold a BEng (H) in mechanical engineering, with a minor in aeronautical engineering, and a PhD in mechanical engineering, both from McGill. I 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, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

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. 


Areas of Research

Orthopaedic Bioengineering and Multiscale Mechanobiology

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.

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.

Participation in university strategic initiatives


Course number Course title Semester
ENCI 317 Mechanics of Solids Summer 2022
ENCI 570 ENCI Design Project 2021
MDGE 75502 Directed Studies - Tissue Mechanics Fall 2020
ENCI 653 Theory and Application of the Finite Element Method Winter 2019
ENCI 461 Mechanics of Solids and Structures Fall 2018


  • Civil Graduating Class Teaching Excellence Award, Engineering Students’ Society . 2021
  • Teaching Achievement Award, Schulich School of Engineering, Civil Engineering. 2019
  • Teaching Excellence Award, Schulich School of Engineering, Civil Engineering. 2011
  • 2nd Year Teaching Excellence Award, Engineering Students’ Society . 2001
  • Teaching Excellence Award, Schulich School of Engineering, Civil Engineering. 2000
  • Students’ Union Teaching Excellence Award, Schulich School of Engineering, Civil Engineering. 1998
  • Simpleware Prize, Research in Imaging and Visualization, CMBBE. 2015
  • Research Excellence Award, Schulich School of Engineering, Civil Engineering. 2013
  • Discovery Accelerator Supplement, NSERC. 2010
  • ISSLS Prize, Best Research Paper, Spine Bioengineering, ISSLS. 2004
  • CRC in Orthopaedic Bioengineering (2002-12), NSERC. 2002
  • Research Excellence Award, Schulich School of Engineering, Civil Engineering. 2001
  • New Investigator (2000-03), Whitaker New Researcher Grant . 2000
  • New Investigator (1998-00), AHFMR Independent Establishment Grant . 1998
  • Volvo Award, Best Research Paper, Spine Biomechanics, ISSLS. 1998


  • The effect of facet geometry on the axial torque-rotation response of lumbar motion segments.. Ahmed, A.M., Duncan, N.A., and Burke, D.L.. Spine. 15: 391-401. (1990)
  • The role of axial rotation in the etiology of unilateral disc prolapse: An experimental and finite element study.. Duncan, N.A., and Ahmed, A.M.. Spine. 16: 1089-1098. (1991)
  • The radial tensile properties of the lumbar annulus fibrosus are site and degeneration dependent.. Fujita, Y., Duncan, N.A., and Lotz, J.C.. Journal of Orthopaedic Research. 15: 814-819. (1997)
  • Compression-induced degeneration of the intervertebral disc: an in vivo mouse model and finite element study.. Lotz, J.C., Colliou, O.K., Chin, J.R., Duncan, N.A. and Liebenberg, E.. Spine. 23: 2493-2506. (1998)
  • Correlation of patellar tracking pattern with trochlear and retropatellar surface topographies.. Ahmed, A.M., and Duncan, N.A.. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering. 122: 652-660. (2000)
  • Anisotropic shear behavior of the annulus fibrosus: effect of harvest site and tissue pre-strain.. Fujita, Y., Wagner, D.R., Biviji, A.A., Duncan, N.A. and Lotz, J.C.. Medical Engineering and Physics. 22: 349-357. (2000)
  • Regional variations in the cellular matrix of the annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc.. Bruehlmann, S.B., Rattner, J.B., Matyas, J.R. and Duncan, N.A. . Journal of Anatomy. 201: 159-171. (2002)
  • Material properties of the human calcaneal fat pad in compression: experiment and theory.. Miller-Young, J.E., Duncan N.A. and Baroud G.. Journal of Biomechanics. 35:1523-31. (2002)
  • The notochordal cell in the nucleus pulposus: a review in the context of tissue engineering.. Hunter, C.J., Matyas, J.R. and Duncan, N.A.. Tissue Engineering. 9: 667-677. (2003)
  • ISSLS Prize Winner: Collagen fibril sliding governs cell mechanics in the annulus fibrosus: an in situ confocal microscopy study of bovine discs.. Bruehlmann, S.B., Matyas, J.R. and Duncan, N.A.. Spine. 29: 2612-2620. (2004)
  • Cytomorphology of notochordal and chondrocytic cells from the nucleus pulposus: a species comparison. . Hunter, C.J., Matyas, J.R. and Duncan, N.A. . Journal of Anatomy. 205: 357-362. (2004)
  • Characterization of a voltage-dependent K+ current in acutely isolated canine articular chondrocytes.. Wilson, J.R., Duncan, N.A., Giles, W.R. and Clark, R.B.. Journal of Physiology. 557: 93-104. (2004)
  • Cell deformation and micromechanical environment in the intervertebral disc.. Duncan, N.A.. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 88 (Supplement 2): 47-51. (2006)
  • Non-uniform strain distribution within rat cartilaginous growth plate under uniaxial compression.. Villemure, I., Cloutier, L., Matyas, J.R. and Duncan, N.A.. Journal of Biomechanics. 40: 149-56. (2007)
  • Strain transfer in the annulus fibrosus under applied flexion.. Desrochers, J. and Duncan, N.A.. Journal of Biomechanics. 43: 2141-2148. (2010)
  • Effect of screw position on bone tissue differentiation within a fixed femoral fracture.. Nasr, S., Hunt, S. and Duncan, N.A. . Journal of Biomedical Science and Engineering. 6: 71-83. (2013)
  • In situ cell-matrix mechanics in tendon fascicles and seeded collagen gels: implications for the multi-scale design of biomaterials. . Duncan, N.A., Bruehlmann, S.B., Hunter, C.J., Shao, X. and Kelly, E.J.. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering. 17: 39-47. (2014)
  • The effect of mechanical stimulation on mineralization in differentiating osteoblasts in collagen-I scaffolds. . Damaraju, S., Matyas, J.R., Rancourt, D.E. and Duncan, N.A.. Tissue Engineering Part A. 20: 3142-3153. (2014)
  • Effect of mechanical strain on the pluripotency of murine embryonic stem cells seeded in a collagen-I scaffold.. Hazenbiller, O., Nasr, S., Krawetz, R.J. and Duncan, N.A.. Journal of Orthopaedic Research. 36: 799-807. (2018)
  • Bioprocessing of mesenchymal stem cells and their derivatives: toward cell-free therapeutics.. Phelps, J., Sanati-Nehzad, A., Ungrin, M., Duncan, N.A. and Sen A. . (2018)
  • Repetitive in vivo manual loading of the spine elicits cellular responses in porcine annuli fibrosi.. Matyas, J.R., Klein, C., Ponjevic, D., Duncan, N.A., Kawchuk, G.N.. Plos One. 6(3): e0248104. (2021)
  • IL-1Ra-deficiency accelerates intervertebral disc degeneration in C57BL6J mice.. Swamy, G., Salo, P., Duncan, N.A., Jirik, F. and Matyas, J.R. . Journal of Orthopaedic Research Spine. 5: e1201. (2022)