I received my B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and my M.S. and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. My doctoral research, under the direction of Professor Matthew J. Silva, studied the use of vibrational loading to initiate bone formation in mice. Low-magnitude vibrational loading has been proposed as a possible non-pharmacologic method of initiating bone formation or mitigating bone loss in elderly patients who may not be able to participate in a rigorous exercise program. I investigated the use of whole-body vibration to initiate bone formation, as well as the development and characterization of a novel method for vibrational loading of mice (constrained tibial vibration). This research involved in vivo mechanical loading of mice, quantification of bone microarchitecture using micro-computed tomography, analysis of bone formation using dynamic histomorphometry, harmonic vibration analysis using accelerometers, finite element analysis of bone mechanical loading, and strain gage analysis of bone deformation. The use of these techniques provided rigorous training in musculoskeletal research of small animals from a biomechanical engineering perspective and is translatable to other research questions involving skeletal adaptation.
After completing my doctoral research, I accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, in the Center for Advanced Orthopedic Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, under the mentorship of Associate Professor Mary L. Bouxsein. The primary focus of my postdoctoral research was biomechanical mechanisms of vertebral fractures and spinal loading in humans. This research used quantitative computed tomography (QCT) scans of subjects from the Framingham Heart Study to construct subject-specific biomechanical models that could predict loads on the spine for various activities, combined with methods for estimating vertebral body strength in order to predict fracture risk. This research provided valuable experience in translational research and further developed my expertise in biomechanical modeling of the musculoskeletal system.