University of Delaware Online Research Magazine
University of Delaware Online Research Magazine

ISSN 2150-5128

September 21, 2015

Dugan named Truman Scholar

Erin Dugan

A senior in the Honors Program majoring in public policy, wants to be a change agent for the public good. As a 2015 Truman Scholar—one of only 58 chosen nationally from more than 600 applicants—she receives $30,000 to put toward graduate study. The Salt Lake City native tells us what’s on her agenda.

Erin Dugan is the University of Delaware’s 19th Truman Scholar. UD is a Truman Honor Institution, a distinction recognizing active encouragement of outstanding young people to pursue careers in public service.


Q & A with Erin

What hooked you on public service?

Public service runs in my blood. I grew up in a house where political discussions dominated family dinners, where protests were a regular occurrence, where every election cycle involved some kind of volunteer work, where NPR was always playing. My parents cared a great deal about what was happening in the world, and they instilled in me a sense of duty. I hadn’t declared a major when I started at UD, but I quickly realized that studying something related to politics and public service was a natural fit.

Who has inspired you the most?

My family. I can’t say a specific member because they have all played a role. My parents set me on this path, my sister challenged me to think about political issues that I hadn’t considered, my grandparents provided never-ending praise, my cousins kept my ego in check, my godmother pushed me to always lean in. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of them. They are the people that made me.

How do you feel when you’re putting your talents to work for others?

I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m putting my talent to work—I think it’s more about simply acknowledging that there are people in this country and around the world that haven’t been as privileged as I have.

I enjoy serving others, but it’s more about the knowledge I gain from the experience.

What’s your dream job?

That’s hard for me to say. I am very passionate about public health, and I would like to work in health policy, specifically on health care reform. I also love politics. The vague dream job is working for a Democratic party leader in the United States Senate. The even more vague dream job is to make a difference in the lives of everyday Americans while residing in Washington, D.C.

What are your next steps?

I am in the midst of applying for the Marshall and Rhodes scholarships, so graduate school is “to be determined.” I am currently working for Salt Lake Community Action Program and Head Start, and I would love to work for the Department of Health and Human Services (the federal agency that oversees Head Start) at some point. The one thing that’s certain is that I will be working and living with my fellow Truman Scholars at the Summer Institute in Washington, D.C., next summer.

Overby elected to board of Oak Ridge consortium

Cordell Overby
Associate Deputy Provost for Research and Regulatory Affairs

Cordell M. Overby, associate deputy provost for research and regulatory affairs, has been elected to the board of directors of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

ORAU is a consortium of 115 Ph.D.-granting universities from across the United States, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom that helps advance national priorities in science, education, security and health through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.

The consortium awards research grants; promotes opportunities for collaboration among government, universities and private industry; and creates strategic partnerships for scientific research and education.

Based in the Research Office, Overby oversees the University’s compliance with federal, state and internal policies and regulations. He is responsible for the review, negotiation and establishment of research agreements and the administrative transfer of research materials to and from UD.

Prior to joining UD, Overby had 18 years of industry experience in technical management and design engineering on programs funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Overby has a secondary faculty appointment as professor in the College of Engineering. He holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctor of science degrees in engineering from George Washington University.

Biomedical Engineering 2015 graduating class

Backbone of the profession

Dawn Elliott
Chair of Biomedical Engineering

With age, your spine’s “shock absorbers”—intervertebral discs—degenerate, often leading to low back pain. Surgical treatment options are extremely limited and don’t restore disc function, so there is tremendous interest in new treatments such as surgical repair and tissue engineering.

Dawn Elliott, chair of biomedical engineering at UD, has been studying the biomechanics of intervertebral discs and other orthopedic soft tissues for the past 20 years using mathematical models, mechanical tests and advanced imaging technologies. She’s working to develop a better understanding of tissue function and the mechanisms for degeneration—and for healing.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers recognized Elliott for her contributions to the field by awarding her the 2015 Van C. Mow Medal. She was cited for her research, her student mentorship with a focus on mentoring women, and her leadership in ASME’s bioengineering division.

But that’s not all. The Orthopedic Research Society also presented its Inaugural Outstanding Achievement in Mentoring Award to Elliott. She is credited with encouraging and helping numerous students through ORS webinars and workshops focused on how to prepare for the academic job market.

Grace O’Connell, who earned her doctorate working with Elliott, refers to her as “an exemplary mentor to her graduate students and an inspiring role model to many others, in particular, academically bound young women.”

In her letter nominating Elliott for the award, O’Connell writes, “Dawn’s advice and mentorship of her graduate students continues well beyond their time in her lab…. [She] has been the backbone for a group of female faculty and postdocs that have crossed paths with her at various points in their career.”

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