Joel D. Boerckel, Ph.D.

faculty photo
Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Department: Orthopaedic Surgery
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
McKay Orthopaedic Research Laboratory
376A Stemmler Hall
3450 Hamilton Walk
Phildelphia, PA 19104-6081
Office: 215-746-8168
Fax: 215-573-2133
B.S. (Mechanical Engineering)
Grove City College , 2006.
M.S. (Mechanical Engineering)
Georgia Institute of Technology, 2009.
Ph.D. (Mechanical Engineering)
Georgia Institute of Technology , 2011.
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Description of Research Expertise

In 1889, Éduoard-Alfred Martel entered Le Gouffre de Padirac, an underground cave system in southern France, carrying a backpack full of candles and a notebook. Upon returning to the surface, he declared: "The unknown draws us irresistibly forward. No one has gone before us in these depths, no one knows where we go nor what we see, nothing so strangely beautiful was ever presented to us, and spontaneously we ask each other the same question: are we not dreaming?”

Practicing science is much like being a 19th century cave explorer, entering the dark unknown and laying out one candle after another. While punctuated by the sublimity of discovery, the scientist, like the cave explorer, spends most of their time in the dark, knocking their head and stubbing their toes. And - once the cavern is lit and the map is sketched, the explorer/scientist doesn't remain in the light, but seeks out the darkest, dampest corner with a bit of a draft to see if they can go deeper.

Drawn by this same sense of wonder, my laboratory seeks to understand the mechanobiology of development. We study how mechanical cues influence morphogenesis, growth, adaptation, and repair, and how these physical stimuli can be used to induce regeneration. Our goals are to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control mechanotransduction during bone and blood vessel development and to use these insights to design development-mimetic strategies for tissue regeneration.

Current projects in the lab include:
1. Mechanotransductive learning: feedback control of vascular morphogenesis. Supported by the Center for Engineering Mechanobiology (
2. Mechanoregulation of transcription for bone development and repair. Supported by NIH R01AR073809.
3. Mechanoregulation of endochondral bone regeneration. Supported by NIH R01AR074948.
4. Mechanobiology of osteocyte morphogenesis. Supported by NIH R21AR071559.

Selected Publications

Chris D. Kegelman, Devon E. Mason, James H. Dawahare, Daniel Horan, Genevieve Vigil, Scott Howard, Alexander G. Robling, Teresita M. Bellido, Joel D. Boerckel: Skeletal cell YAP and TAZ combinatorially promote bone development. FASEB Journal 32(5): 2706-2721, Dec 2017 Notes:

Mason DE, Collins JM, Dawahare, JH, Nguyen TD, Lin Y, Voytik-Harbin SL, Zorlutuna PZ, Yoder ME, Boerckel JD: YAP and TAZ limit cytoskeletal and focal adhesion maturation to enable persistent cell motility. Journal of Cell Biology 218(4): 1369-1389, April 2019 Notes: •JCB: “Year in Cell Biology 2019” •JCB Spotlight: doi:10.1083/jcb.201902035 •Prelights: •F1000:

McDermott AM*, Herberg S*, Mason DE, Collins JM, Pearson HB, Dawahare JH, Tang R, Patwa AN, Grinstaff MW, Kelly DJ, Alsberg E†, Boerckel JD†: Recapitulating bone development through engineered mesenchymal condensations and mechanical cues for tissue regeneration. Science Translational Medicine 5(11): 495, Jun 2019 Notes: •Penn: •UIC: •F1000:

Herberg S*, McDermott AM*, Dang PN, Alt DS, Tang R, Dawahare JH, Varghai D, Shin J-Y, McMillan1 A, Dikina1 AD, He F, Lee Y, Cheng Y, Umemori K, Wong PC, Park H, Boerckel JD†, Alsberg E†: Combinatorial morphogenetic and mechanical cues to mimic bone development for defect repair. Science Advances 28(5): 8, Aug 2019 Notes: •Penn: •UIC:

Pearson HB, Mason DE, Kegelman CD, Zhao L, Dawahare JH, Kacena MA, Boerckel JD. : Effects of BMP-2 on neovascularization during large bone defect regeneration. Tissue Engineering Part A 25(23-24): 1623-1634, Jun 2019.

Kegelman CD*, Collins JM*, Nijsure MP*, Eastburn EA*, Boerckel JD: Gone caving: roles of the transcriptional regulators YAP and TAZ in skeletal development. Current Osteoporosis Reports 18 : 526–540, Jul 2020 Notes: *Contributed equally.

Kegelman CD, Coulombe JC, Jordan KM, Horan DJ, Qin L, Robling AG, Ferguson VL, Bellido TM, Boerckel JD: YAP and TAZ mediate osteocyte perilacunar/canalicular remodeling. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 35(1): 196-210, Jan 2020.

Kegelman CD, Nijsure MP, Moharrer Y, Pearson HB, Dawahare JH, Jordan KM, Qin L, Boerckel JD: YAP and TAZ promote periosteal osteoblast precursor expansion and differentiation for fracture repair. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 36(1): 143-157, Jan 2021 Notes: •Penn:

Ruehle MA, Eastburn EA, LaBelle SA, Krishnan L, Weiss JA, Boerckel JD, Wood LB, Guldberg RE, Willett NJ: Mechanical regulation of microvascular angiogenesis. Science Advances 6(34): eabb6351, Aug 2020 Notes: •Oregon:

Boerckel JD, Uhrig BA, Willett NJ, Huebsch N, Guldberg RE: Mechanical regulation of vascular growth and tissue regeneration in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108(37): E674-80, Sep 2011 Notes: •Georgia Tech:

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Last updated: 03/20/2024
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