Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Davidson, Lance A
Bioengineering Department

Dr. Lance Davidson is Professor in Bioengineering and a Wellington C. Carl Faculty Fellow at the Swanson School of Engineering, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Developmental Biology and Computational and Systems Biology at the University of Pittsburgh and in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University. He is Director of the Mechanics of Morphogenesis Laboratory. He is also is a Member of the Complex Biological Systems Group and a Member of the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Graduate Program - Molecular Genetics and Developmental Biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Dr. Davidson's group works at the interface between engineering, physics, and biology. His lab mechmorpho.org in the Biomedical Science Tower 3 (BST3) has allowed him to work closely with engineers and biologists to integrate the molecular genetic details of morphogenesis with cellular and tissue mechanics, with the aim of helping design better artificial tissues and identifying the mechanical sources of birth defects.  

Dr. Davidson has received funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the American Heart Association.  His research interests include:

  • Understanding how biomechanics drives morphogenesis across a number of size scales from subcellular generation of forces to the macroscopic forces and bulk tissue properties.
  • Relating how signaling and biomechanics are integrated during embryonic development and how these processes are coupled during cardiovascular remodeling, mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (in cancer and development), heart formation, wound healing, and tissue regeneration.
  • Applying the principles of development and morphogenesis to drive self-assembly in naïve tissues thus providing new strategies and technologies for tissue engineers. 


Ph.D. in Biophysics, University of California at Berkeley, 1995

M.Sc. in Experimental Space Science, York University, 1986

B.S. in Physics, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, 1984

Reverse Engineering Morphogenesis - From Cell Motility & ECM to Tissue Mechanics.

(2017) Distinguished Lectureship. Richard Russell Memorial Lecture, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Biological Sciences..

(2013) Invited Panelist at the National Institutes of Health - 9th Structural Birth Defects Meeting.

(2013) University of Pittsburgh Provost's Innovation in Education Award.

(2012) Appointed Wellington C. Carl Faculty Fellow.

(2009) NSF Career Award.

(2008) American Heart Association Beginning Grant-in-Aid.

(1999) American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship.

(1999) Best Poster, Workshop on Advances in Cellular Imaging, W.M. Keck Center for Cellular Imaging, University of Virgina.

(1993) Fellowship to attend the Summer Course in Embryology at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, MA.

(1992) Fellowship to present a poster at the Gordon Conference on Theoretical Biology.

(1989) Systems in Integrative Biology - NIH National Research Service Award. U.C. Berkeley.

T. R. Jackson, H. Y. Kim, U. L. Balakrishnan, C. Stuckenholz, and L. A. Davidson (2017). Spatiotemporally controlled mechanical cues drive progenitor mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition enabling proper heart formation and function. Current Biology. 27: 1326–1335. PMID: 28434863 PMCID: PMC5497766

                DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.03.065

Chanet, S., Miller, C. J., Vaishnav, E. D., Ermentrout, B., Davidson, L. A., & Martin, A. C. (2017). Actomyosin meshwork mechanosensing enables tissue shape to orient cell force. Nature Communications, 8. PMID: 28504247, PMCID: PMC5440693,

                DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15014

L. A. Davidson (2017). Mechanical design in embryos: mechanical signaling, robustness, and developmental defects. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Part B. Special Issue on Morphogenesis. PMID: 28348252 PMCID: PMC5379024

                DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0516

G. A. Stooke-Vaughan, L. A. Davidson, and S. Woolner (2017). Xenopus as a model for studies in mechanical stress and cell division. Genesis, The Journal of Genetics and Development. PMID: 28095623 PMCID: PMC5276720

                DOI: 10.1002/dvg.23004

D. Vijayraghavan and L. A. Davidson (2016). Mechanics of Neurulation: from classical to current perspectives on the physical mechanics that shape, fold, and form the neural tube. Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology. PMID:

    27620928 DOI: 10.1002/bdra.23557

J. J. Adibi, Y. Zhao, A. Cartus, P. Gupta, and L. A. Davidson (2016). Placental mechanics in the Zika-microcephaly relationship. Cell Host & Microbe, 20(1), 9-11. Commentary on recent studies. PMID: 27414496 DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2016.06.013

H. Y. Kim*, T. R. Jackson*, and L. A. Davidson (2016). On the role of mechanics in driving mesenchymal-to-epithelial transitions. (* contributed equally) Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology. PMID: 27208723 PMCID: PMC5115991

                DOI: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2016.05.011

B. Holt, J. H. Shawky, K. N. Dahl, L. A. Davidson§, M. Islam§ (2016). Distribution of single-wall carbon nanotubes in the Xenopus laevis embryo after microinjection. Applied Toxicology. 36: 568-578. (§ contributed equally) PMID: 26510384.

B. Holt, J. H. Shawky, K. N. Dahl, L. A. Davidson§, M. Islam§ (2016). Developing Xenopus embryos recover by compacting and expelling single-wall carbon nanotubes. Journal of Applied Toxicology. 36: 579-585. (§ contributed equally). PMID: 26153061

M. Hazar, Y. T. Kim, J. Song, P. R. LeDuc§, L. A Davidson§, W. C. Messner§ (2015). 3D bio-etching of a complex composite-like embryonic tissue. Lab on a Chip, 15: 3293-9. (§ contributed equally). PMID: 26138309. PMCID: 4519418

J. Song, J. H. Shawky, Y. T. Kim, M. Hazar, P. R. LeDuc§, M. Sitti§, and  L. A. Davidson§ (2015). Controlled surface topography regulates collective 3D migration by epithelial-mesenchymal composite embryonic tissues. Biomaterials, 58: 1-9. (§ contributed equally). PMID: 25933063. PMCID: 4437865

J. Zhou, S. Pal, S. Maiti, and L. A. Davidson (2015).  Force production and mechanical accommodation during convergent extension. Development. 142, 692-701. PMID: 25670794. PMCID: 4402132

J. H. Shawky and L.A. Davidson (2015). Tissue mechanics and adhesion during embryo development. Developmental Biology. 401: 152-164. (Special Issue on Adhesion). PMID: 25512299. PMCID: 4402132

E. M. McGreevy. D. Vijayraghavan, L. A. Davidson and J. D. Hildebrand (2015). Shroom3 functions downstream of planar cell polarity to regulate myosin II distribution and cellular organization during neural tube closure. Biology Open. PMID: 25596276, PMCID: 4365487

R. Feroze*, J. H. Shawky*, M. von Dassow, and L. A. Davidson (2015). Mechanics of blastopore closure during amphibian gastrulation. (* contributed equally) Developmental Biology. 398(1):57-67. PMID: 25448691, PMCID: 4317491

Y. T. Kim, M. Hazar, D. Vijayraghavan, J. Song, T. R. Jackson, S. D. Joshi,  L. A. Davidson§, W. C. Messner§, and P. R. LeDuc§. (2014) Mechanochemical actuators of embryonic epithelial contractility. (§ contributed equally) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  111, 14366-14371. PMID: 25246549, PMCID: 4210000

M. von Dassow, C. J. Miller, and L. A. Davidson (2014). Biomechanics and the thermotolerance of development. PLoS ONE. 9: e95670. PMID: 24776615, PMCID: 4002435

C. J. Miller and L. A. Davidson (2013).The interplay between cell signaling and mechanics in developmental processes. Nature Reviews Genetics. 14: 733-744. PMID: 24045690. PMCID: 4056017

Kim, Y., Joshi, S.D., Davidson, L., Messner, W.C., and LeDuc, P.R., "Mechanochemical actuators of embryonic epithelial contractility," PNAS, Manuscript submitted for publication.

von Dassow, M., Miller, C.J., and Davidson, L., "Biomechanics and the thermotolerance of development," PLoS ONE, Manuscript submitted for publication.

Edlund, A.F., Davidson, L., and Keller, R.E., 2013, "Cell segregation, mixing, and tissue pattern in the spinal cord of the Xenopus laevis neurula," Developmental Dynamics, vol.242, pp. 1134-1146.

Kim, H.Y., and Davidson, L., 2013, "Assembly of chambers for stable long-term imaging of live Xenopus tissue," Cold Spring Harbor Protocols, pdb. prot073882.

Kim, H.Y., and Davidson, L., 2013, "Investigating morphogenesis in Xenopus embryos: Imaging strategies, processing, and analysis," Cold Spring Harbor Protocols, pdb. top073890.

Kim, H.Y., and Davidson, L., 2013, "Microsurgical approaches to isolate tissues from Xenopus embryos for imaging morphogenesis," Cold Spring Harbor Protocols, pdb. prot073874.

Kim, H.Y., and Davidson, L., 2013, "Preparation and use of reporter constructs for imaging morphogenesis in Xenopus embryos," Cold Spring Harbor Protocols, pdb. prot073866.

Miller, C.J., and Davidson, L., 2013, "The interplay between cell signaling and mechanics in developmental processes," Nature Reviews Genetics, vol.14, pp. 733-744.



Davidson, L., 2017 American Society for Cell Biology, Invited speaker in Cell Cycle Subgroup session "Cell cycle regulation of morphogenetic behavior." 2017 ASCB Meeting.

Davidson, L., 2017 Richard Russell Memorial Lecture. University of Pittsburgh, Department of Biological Sciences.

Davidson, L., 2017 Xenopus Resource Meeting, National Xenopus Resource, Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Invited Speaker 

Davidson, L., 2017 NSF Cellular Biomanufacturing Workshop, George Mason University, Invited Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2017 King's College London, Department of Craniofacial Development and Stem Cell Biology, Invited Seminar Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2017 Society for Developmental Biology, Organizing Committee for 76th Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN.

Davidson, L., 2017 SB3C Summer Bioengineering Conference. Session co-organizer on Mechanics of Development.

Davidson, L., 2017 University College London, MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology and Institute for the Physics of Living Systems, Invited Seminar Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2017 University of California at Santa Barbara, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Invited Seminar Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2017 Experimental Biology, FASEB, Chicago, IL. Invited Speaker, April 22-26. 

Davidson, L., 2017 Workshop on Morphogenesis: Celebration of D'Arcy Thompson, "On Growth and Form" Centennial. Mathematical Biology Institute, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH. Invited Speaker, Feb. 20-24. Participant, March 5-10.

Davidson, L., 2016 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting, Biomechanics Track Co-Chair.

Davidson, L., 2016 Cornell University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Invited Seminar Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2016 Wayne State University, Department of Biology, Invited Seminar Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2016 Society for Developmental Biology and International Society for Developmental Biology, 75th Annual Meeting, Boston, MA. Invited Speaker, Aug. 4-8.

Davidson, L., Charles, Illinois. Invited Speaker. Aug. 3-4.

 Davidson, L., 2016 SB3C Summer Bioengineering Conference. Invited speaker in Special Session "Non-Canonical Models for Mechanobiology — Insights from Plants and Non-Mammalian Systems (Cell and Tissue).” June 30 - July 2. National City, MD.

Davidson, L., 2016, 2017 Cold Spring Harbor Course on "Cell and Developmental Biology of Xenopus". Instructor. April 9-12.

Davidson, L., 2016 Aspen Center for Physics Winter Conference "Physics of Development and Disease," Invited Speaker. March 27-April 1.

Davidson, L., 2015 Stony Brook University, Department of Biochemistry, Invited Seminar Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2015 GEM4 Summer School, Invited Lecturer, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Davidson, L., 2015 Yale University, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Invited Seminar Speaker

Davidson, L., 2015 Workshop on Genetic and Generic Mechanisms of Development. Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Minnesota. April 23-26. One of four invited Scientific Experts.

Davidson, L., 2015 Cold Spring Harbor Course on "Cell and Developmental Biology of Xenopus". Instructor. April 17-20.

Davidson, L., 2015 Society for Developmental Biology Mid-Atlantic Region Meeting, Princeton University, Invited Speaker in "Mechanisms of Morphogenesis". March 27 - 28.

Davidson, L., 2015 West Virginia University. Department of Biological Sciences, Invited Seminar Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2015 Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering Conference, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Jan. 6th-10th. "From Womb to Tomb: Mechanobiology of Generation, Regeneration, and Degeneration." Invited Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2014 New York University. Department of Developmental Genetics, Symposium on Morphogenesis. New York City, Dec. 6, Invited Speaker.

Davidson, L., 2014 The 62nd National Institute for Basic Biology Conference "Force in Development", Okazaki Japan, Nov. 16-19, Co-Organizer

Davidson, L., Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Invited Departmental Seminar. 

Davidson, L., 2014 Workshop ‘Mechanobiology of Somitogenesis’, September 8th – 12th 2014, Leiden, The Netherlands, Invited Speaker

Davidson, L., 2014 16th International Xenopus Meeting, Pacific Grove California, Invited Speaker

Davidson, L., 2014, "Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems," World Conference on Biomechanics, Boston, Massachusetts.

Davidson, L., 2014, "Mechanics of Tissue and Organ Development," World Conference on Biomechanics, Boston, Massachusetts.

Davidson, L., 2014, "Mechanobiology of Somitogenesis'," Workshop, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Davidson, L., 2014, "Pattern Formation in Cell Biology," Nonlinear Dynamics and Stochastic Methods: From Neuroscience to Other Biological Applications, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

Davidson, L., 2013, "Biomedical Engineering," Departmental Seminar, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Georgia.

Davidson, L., 2013, "Cellular Approaches to Tissue Engineering and Regeneration (CATER)," University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

Davidson, L., 2013, "Computational and Systems Biology," Departmental Seminar, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

Davidson, L., 2013, "Morphogenesis in Living Systems," Lecture, Paris, France.

Davidson, L., 2013, "Tissue Mechanobiology: Tissue on the move," 15th International Conference on Biomedical Engineering (ICMBE 2013), Singapore.


Publication   Role
Frontiers in Computational Physiology and Medicine
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Physical Biology
Editorial Board
Cell Communication and Adhesion
Editorial Board