Paulette Spencer

Paulette Spencer
  • Deane E. Ackers Distinguished Professor, Mechanical Engineering
  • Director of the Institute for Bioengineering Research


Dr. Paulette Spencer, is known as a pioneer in molecular-level investigations of material/tissue interfaces. Supported by NIH and armed with an understanding of material/tissue interfacial phenomena, Dr. Spencer works with a diverse, interdisciplinary research team to design and develop a new generation of biomaterials. Her research is represented in 200 publications, 400 presentations, over 10,000 citations, and H-index 58.  In 2017, she co-edited a book titled, “Material-Tissue Interfacial Phenomena”. Building on her education and experience, she leads a research program that is driven by clinical need, and integrates engineering principles with the clinical practice of dentistry.  Dr. Spencer is among the pioneers in the development of non-destructive techniques for in situ characterization of structure/property relationships at tissue/tissue and material/tissue interfaces. She has developed a unique research program based on “practice-inspired advances in understanding tissue-material interfaces,” to drive biomaterials discovery. It has been recognized for decades that the failure of reconstructed tissues and joints using synthetic and/or tissue-engineered materials starts at the interface.  In spite of this history, mechanistic evaluation of interfacial failure remains limited. My research team uses multi-scale structure/property imaging and modeling to provide insight into mechanistic behavior of reconstructed tissue/material interfaces.  The experimental tools are state-of-the-art, while the modeling and analytical techniques bridge scales from molecules to meters.  Unique capabilities for understanding biomaterials, tissues, and biomaterial/tissue interfaces are brought together in the IBER― knowledge of interfacial phenomena is used to rationally design and develop new biomaterials.


Research interests:

  • Biomaterials
  • material/tissue interface
  • Molecular-level structure/property characterization


Teaching interests:

  • Biomaterials
  • research methods
  • bioengineering

Awards & Honors

Clemson Award for Basic Research, Society for Biomaterials (2019)

Fellow, Biomaterials Science and Engineering, International Union of Societies for Biomaterials

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE)

Life Fellow, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award (Brazil, 2015)

Recipient of the Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Award: Dolph Simons Award in Biomedical Sciences (in recognition of significant research accomplishments among the faculty at all Kansas Board of Regents institutions), 2015

Visiting Professor, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2009, 2015


  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (1992 - Pres)
  • American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2003-Pres)
  • American Dental Association (1992-Pres)
  • American College of Dentists (1992-Pres)
  • American Academy of Dental Materials (1983-Pres)
  • American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (1983-Pres, Life fellow status awarded 2017)
  • International and American Association of Dental Research (1982-Pres) 
  • Omicron Kappa Upsilon-Rho Chapter (1992 - Pres)
  • Sigma Xi (1987 - Pres)
  • Society for Biomaterials (1997 - Pres)