Professor Lorna Gibson studies the mechanical behavior of materials, specializing in materials with a cellular structure, such as engineering honeycombs and foams, scaffolds for regenerative engineering, and natural materials such as wood, bamboo, and plant leaves and stems. The Gibson Group has contributed to the understanding of the mechanics of cellular solids as well as to their use in many applications. She is the co-author of Cellular Solids: Structure and Properties; Metal Foams: A Design Guide; and Cellular Materials in Nature and Medicine. Projects have included the design and characterization of osteochondral scaffolds for the regeneration of cartilage as well as the underlying bone, the mechanics of fluid flow through open-cell foams for protection from impacts, low thermal conductivity aerogels for building applications, and structural bamboo products and the mechanics of balsa and balsa-inspired engineering materials. 


Professor Gibson earned a BAS in civil engineering at the University of Toronto in 1978 and a PhD in materials engineering at the University of Cambridge in 1981, focusing on the elastic and plastic behavior of cellular materials. Soon after she worked as a senior engineer on engineering in the Arctic at Arctec Canada. She then entered academia, working as an assistant professor in civil engineering at the University of British Columbia from 1982 to 1984. Professor Gibson moved to the faculty of the Department of Civil Engineering at MIT with a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She joined DMSE in 1996. In 2005, Gibson co-founded a medical technology company, OrthoMimetics, and served on its scientific advisory board. Professor Gibson served as MIT chair of the faculty from 2005 to 2006 and as associate provost from 2006 to 2008.

Key Publications

3D printed structures for modeling the Young’s modulus of bamboo parenchyma

Devised an alternative approach to test the mechanical properties of the various tissues in bamboo. The new method involves enlarging the tissues’ microstructure into 3-D printed models so tests can be conducted more effectively.

To model bamboo, we needed to know if its spongy parenchyma tissue behaves like a honeycomb or a foam, as their properties depend on density in different ways. Since it’s difficult to cut out samples of parenchyma tissue, we 3-D printed larger-size replica structures of different densities and mechanically tested those instead.

Because bamboo is lightweight and sustainable, there’s growing interest in its use in construction. Understanding the mechanical properties of various kinds of bamboo is key in developing safe and reliable products.

Awards & Honors

Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching, MIT
Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow, MIT
Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching, MIT
Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers