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Stephen Cowin

Faculty and Staff Profiles

Stephen C. Cowin

Distinguished Professor

Steinman Hall
Phone Number: 
(212) 650-5208
(212) 650-6727

Professor Cowin has also been Professor-in-Charge of the Tulane/Newcomb Junior Year Abroad Program in Great Britain and Chairman of the Applied Mathematics Program at Tulane. In 1985 he received the Society of Tulane Engineers and Lee H. Johnson Award for Teaching Excellence. He was also the recipient of the Best Paper Award from the Bioengineering Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1992; a recipient of the Melville Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1993, and a recipient of the European Society of Biomechanics Research Award in 1994. In 1999 he receive the H. R. Lissner medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for contributions to biomedical engineering. In 2004 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In 2004 he also received the Maurice A. Biot medal of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

  • BSE in Civil Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University, 1956
  • MS in Civil Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University, 1958
  • Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics, minor in Mathematics, the Pennsylvania State University, 1962
  • Post Doctoral, Department of Theoretical Mechanics, University of Nottingham, 1967-68
  • Sabbatical, Tulane University, School of Medicine, Basic Medical Science Courses in Anatomy and Physiology, 1979-1980.
  • Sabbatical, ACTA-Vrije University, Department of Oral Cell Biology, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1996-1997.
Courses Taught
  • Continuum Mechanics
  • Cell and Tissue Mechanics
  • Poroelasticity
Research Interests

Mechanics of materials, particularly in the determination of the influence of microstructure on the gross mechanical behavior of granular, composite, and biological materials; 
Current publications are in orthopedic biomechanics and anisotropic elasticity.
Professor Cowin also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Orthopedics at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City . He is the author of over two hundred research papers, editor or co-editor of five books and coauthor of a textbook on Tissue Mechanics. He is presently or has been an Associate Editor of the Journal of Applied Mechanics and the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, a member of the Editorial Board of the Annals of Biomedical Engineering and the Editorial Advisory Board of the Handbook of Bioengineering and the Handbook of Mechanics, Materials, and Structures and the International Journal of Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology. Professor Cowin is known for his analysis of static bin pressure induced by granular materials, his development of a continuum theory for granular materials (with M. A. Goodman), the creation of the continuum theory of materials with small voids (with J. W. Nunziato), for the development of models of granular material slip zones (with M. M. Mehrabadi), basic theorems in anisotropic elasticity (with M. M. Mehrabadi) and the development of the bone remodeling theories and computational algorithms with many co- investigators over a thirty-five year period. For many years he worked with Shelly Weinbaum to develop a physiological model for mechanotransduction in living bone. His current interest is in fluid movement in bone and soft tissue, developmental biology and anisotropy of materials.


Recent & Frequently Cited Papers

  1. Goodman MA, Cowin SC. 1972. A Continuum Theory for Granular Materials. Arch. Rational Mech. Anal. 44: 249-266
  2. Cowin SC, Hegedus DM. 1976. Bone remodeling I: A theory of adaptive elasticity. J. Elasticity 6: 313-25
  3. Cowin SC, Hart RT, Balser JR, Kohn DH. 1985. Functional adaptation in long bones: Establishing in vivo values for surface remodeling rate coefficients. J. Biomechanics 18: 665-84
  4. Cowin SC. 1985. The relationship between the elasticity tensor and the fabric tensor. Mechanics of Materials 4: 137-47
  5. Cowin SC. 1986. Wolff's law of trabecular architecture at remodeling equilibrium. J. Biomechanical Engineering 108: 83-88
  6. Cowin SC, Mehrabadi MM. 1987. On the identification of material symmetry for anisotropic elastic materials. Quart. J. Mech. Appl. Math. 40: 451-76
  7. Cowin SC, Moss-Salentijn L, Moss ML. 1991. Candidates for the mechanosensory system in bone. J. Biomechanical Engineering 113: 191-97
  8. Cowin SC, Sadegh AM, Luo GM. 1992. An evolutionary Wolff's law for trabecular architecture. J. Biomechanical Engineering 114: 129-36
  9. Weinbaum S, Cowin SC, Zeng Y. 1994. A model for the excitation of osteocytes by mechanical loading-induced bone fluid shear stresses. J.Biomechanics 27: 339-60
  10. Cowin SC, Weinbaum S, Zeng Y. 1995. A case for bone canaliculi as the anatomical site of strain generated potentials. J. Biomechanics 28: 1281-96
  11. Cowin SC. 1999. Bone Poroelasticity. J. Biomechanics 32: 218- 38
  12. Yang G, Kabel J, van Rietbergen B, Odgaard A, Huiskes R, Cowin SC. 1999. The anisotropic Hooke’s law for cancellous bone and wood. J. Elasticity 53: 125-46
  13. Cowin SC. 2000. How is a tissue built? J. Biomechanical Engineering 122: 553-69
  14. Chadwick P, Vianello M, Cowin SC. 2001. A new proof that the number of linear anisotropic elastic symmetries is eight. J. Mech. Phys. Solids 49: 2471-92
  15. Weinbaum S, Zhang X, Han Y, Vink H, Cowin SC. 2003. Mechanotransduction and flow across the endothelial glycocalyx. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 100: 7988-95
  16. Cowin SC. 2004. Tissue growth and remodeling. In Annual Reviews of Biomedical Engineering, 6:77-107.
  17. Han Y, Cowin SC, Schaffler MB, Weinbaum S, 2004. Mechanotransduction and strain amplification in osteocyte cell processes and flow across the endothelial glycocalyx. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 101: (#47) 16689-16694
  18. Cowin SC, Mehrabadi MM. 2007. Compressible and incompressible constituents in anisotropic poroelasticity: The problem of unconfined compression of a disk. J. Mech. Phys. Solids, 55:161-193
  19. Cowin S, Gailani G, Benalla M. 2009. Hierarchical Poroelasticity: Exchange of interstitial fluid between porosity levels in bones, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 367:341-3444

Recent & Frequently Cited Books

  1. Cowin SC, ed. 1989. Bone Mechanics, Boca Raton, FL:CRC Press
  2. Cowin SC, ed. 2001. Bone Mechanics Handbook, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press (ISBN/ISSN: 0849391172)
  3. Cowin SC, Humphrey JH, eds. 2001. Cardiovascular Soft Tissue Mechanics, Kluwer (ISBN 1-4020-0220-3
  4. Huyghe JM, Cowin SC, eds. 2003. Physicochemical and Electromechanical Interactions in Porous Media, Special Issue of Transport in Porous Media Vol. 50, Nos.1 & 2 on the topic Physiochemical and Electromechanical Interactions, ISSN 0169-3913
  5. Huyghe JM, Raats PA, Cowin SC, eds. 2005. IUTAM-Proceedings on Physicochemical and Electromechanical Interactions in Porous Media, Kluwer, Boston/Dordrecht/London, ISBN-10 1-4020-3464-X (HB)
  6. Cowin SC, Doty, SB. 2007. Tissue Mechanics. Springer, (Library of Congress Control Number: 2006932976, ISBN-10: 0-387-36825-6, ISBN-13: 978-0-387-36825-2).
Additional Information

Awards & Honors


Best Paper Award, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Bioengineering Division, 1992 

The Melville Medal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1993

European Society of Biomechanics Research Award, 1994

The H. R. Lissner Medal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1999

Elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, 2004 The Maurice A. Biot Medal, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2004

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