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Dean, David


Dr. David Dean is an Associate Professor with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Director of the Osteo Engineering Laboratory. His contributions to the materials science and engineering program bridge the biomedical and materials science disciplines and activities residing at the new Biomedical and Materials Engineering Complex (BMEC), which opened in autumn 2020. Materials and medicine occupy two of the four focus areas identified by the College of Engineering.

As part of his role with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, David teaches a course in the Master of Global Engineering Leadership (MGEL) program, Additive Manufacturing for Bio-Medical Devices, a new course dedicated to the latest uses of 3D printing in medicine. Dr. Dean also contributes to biomaterial and medical device courses and collaborates with researchers in both the welding engineering and materials science and engineering programs.

The Osteo Engineering Laboratory (Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery) explores strategies to plan reconstructive surgical procedures, the design and fabrication of surgical guides, and the design and fabrication of devices for skeletal fixation and regeneration. This novel bone tissue engineering research uses 3D printed, resorbable, solid-cured polymers as well as bioprinted, cell-laden, hydrogels.


Education and appointments

  • B.S. degrees in Biology, Anthropology – Case Western Reserve University, 1978-1981
  • M.S. degree in Physical and Biological Anthropology – Temple University, 1982-1984
  • Ph.D. in Physical and Biological Anthropology – The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 1984-1992
  • Post-doctoral Fellow, Plastic Surgery – New York University, 1992-1994
  • Following a two-year post-doctoral appointment in the Institute for Reconstructive Plastic Surgery at New York University, he joined the faculty of the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a member of faculty with CWRU from 1994-2013.
  • Dr. Dean came to The Ohio State University in 2013, where he assumes roles in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.


David Dean’s research focuses on medical procedures and devices primarily related to musculoskeletal reconstructive surgery. His research program currently includes custom polymeric, tissue engineered, bone implants as well as stiffness-matched (NiTi) and resorbable (Mg alloy) skeletal fixation.

He is also working on the 3D printing of two biometals, NiTi and a resorbable, patent-pending Mg alloy. Both are being used to develop stiffness-matched, skeletal fixation devices. Taken together, these technologies portend significant improvements in musculoskeletal reconstructive surgical outcomes.


His PhD thesis presented a novel, template-based method to produce average 3D surface images of organs such as the skull.

Postdoc research

His postdoctoral research at the Institute of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery (New York University, New York, NY) used average skull images as targets for surgical simulation and intra-operative guidance.

Case Western Reserve University

In July 1994, Dr. Dean joined Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH) where he began using average skull images to design and fabricate cranial implants in the Department of Neurological Surgery. Indeed, Dr. Dean was the first person to use an anatomical template to design and 3D print a patient-specific cranial implant, a procedure that is now standard-of-care.

Since the mid-1990’s Dr. Dean’s research has expanded to incorporate techniques from the field of regenerative medicine, including biomaterials, skeletal progenitor cells, and cell-signaling proteins and molecules in the search for a bone tissue engineering (i.e., bone substitute) strategy.

The Ohio State University

In 2013, his primary appointment transferred from the Department of Neurological Surgery at CWRU to the Department of Plastic Surgery at The Ohio State University. His research has led to the development of computer-aided design software for the additive manufacture (3D printing) of patient-specific (custom) inert and tissue engineered bone implants and surgical instrumentation.