Dr Daniel Espino BSc, PhD, SFHEA, CBiol, CSci, MRSB, CEng, MIPEM

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering

Contact details

School of Engineering
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Daniel is an Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering, and is both a Chartered Biologist and a Chartered Engineer.

Daniel has published around 80 peer-reviewed journal papers and a book chapter in the field of Biomedical Engineering, focusing primarily on connective tissues across the body. He has received funding from EPSRC, the EU and the British Heart Foundation. He has been invited to give seminars, talks and demonstrate research at international meetings in Australia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Switzerland, USA and the UK.

Daniel's main areas of teaching are modules on mechanics, computational modelling and biomedical engineering. His research applies principles of mechanics and computational modelling to investigate the physical behaviour of connective tissues found in the body.


  • PhD in Biomedical Physics & Bio-Engineering, University of Aberdeen
  • BSc, University of Aberdeen
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy SFHEA
  • Member of the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine C.Eng, MIPEM
  • Member of the Royal Society of Biology C.Biol, C.Sci, MRSB
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, University of Birmingham Distinction


Daniel's current research focus as an Associate Professor is shaped by his career path. This includes holding a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship at the University of Birmingham, Marie Curie Experienced Researcher post on the 3D Anatomical Human project at the Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute (Bologna, Italy), and Maurice & Phyllis Paykel Research Fellowship at the University of Auckland (New Zealand).

Daniel first became interested in the application of mechanics to physiology during his undergraduate studies at the University of Aberdeen. He held a Wellcome Trust Vacation scholarship, focusing his interests on the mechanics of the intervertebral disc through numerical modelling. Subsequently, he evaluated the mechanics of the mitral heart valve during his postgraduate studies. As an undergraduate he was awarded the Robertson prize for Physics (University of Aberdeen) and as a post-graduate the Best Poster prize at the 9th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.

Following his PhD in Biomedical Physics & Bio-Engineering at the University of Aberdeen, Daniel was awarded a British Heart Foundation Junior Fellowship which he held at the University of Birmingham – marking the start of his affiliation with Mechanical Engineering; an affiliation which he resumed following posts in New Zealand and Italy.


Daniel is passionate about education, and was part of the Swift Feedback Team awarded a Teaching Innovation Award (2020) for the development of feedback software.

Teaching Programmes

  • Year-1 School of Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

In addition to his core teaching, Daniel has been active as regards outreach, for example delivering engineering sessions via In2Science, The Engineering Development Trust, and Birmingham’s own Popular Maths lectures.

Postgraduate supervision

Daniel is always keen to discuss research opportunities for potential researchers who are highly motivated and seeking opportunities in the field of tissue mechanics (refer to ‘Research Themes’ for more details).

Sample outputs produced by Daniel’s researchers, such as theses, videos, code and some of the awards which they have received are included below:

Sample PhD theses

Prizes awarded to Daniel’s researchers

Featured issue covers

Release of code for modelling

Sample presentations


Daniel’s research is broadly focused on the mechanics of connective tissues – noting that blood itself is a classed as a connective tissue. This has led to a wide range of studies on individual tissues, organs and physiological systems; with experimental and computational platforms being developed to study the mechanics of their function or failure, and potential applications to either surgery or medical devices.

Specific examples of the application of experimental and computational techniques include evaluating:

  • the mechanics of the mitral heart valve including its surgical repair;
  • the mechanics of the intervertebral disc and a posterior stabilisation device,
  • dynamics and failure mechanics of articular cartilage,
  • blood-flow using a numerical model, including its application to the design of hemodialysis catheters.

Selected case-studies highlighting current research activities are included below.

Experimental and computational platforms to evaluate connective tissue mechanics

An experimental method to test mitral heart valves in vitro has been developed and used to evaluate surgical repair of the mitral valve, and chordal failure. This has been matched by a fluid-structure interaction model leading to predict flow through the mitral valve, and finite-element analysis modelling of the valve itself.

Figure 1: Experimental and computational modelling of an otherwise healthy mitral valve
Figure 1: Experimental and computational modelling of an otherwise healthy mitral valve. A two-dimensional plane of blood flow through the valve has been predicted using Fluid-Structure Interaction during diastole. The stress distribution on the mitral valve has been mapped on to half of the left atrial view of the mitral valve anterior and posterior leaflets, during systole. Tests consisted of a porcine mitral heart valve placed within an experimental simulator to mimic peak systolic pressure exerted on the valve. The central figure has been reproduced from Northeast et al., 2021.

Application of Computational Fluid Dynamics to evaluate blood-flow

Daniel’s team have applied their blood models to develop a numerical platform with which to evaluate the effectiveness of the design of hemodialysis catheter tips, exploiting a multi-phase Eulerian-Eulerian model.

Figure 2: Development of a numerical platform to evaluate transient blood-flow through hemodialysis catheters
Figure 2: Development of a numerical platform to evaluate transient blood-flow through hemodialysis catheters, using a right atrium model. A multiphase blood model has been used to model blood in this Computational Fluid Dynamics simulation, with the volume fraction of recirculated blood evaluated. Reproduced from de Oliveira, Owen et al., 2021.

While the team have used a Newtonian model for blood for large scale-flow, and for Fluid-Structure Interaction models, these models have limitations when evaluating disease states such as aneurysms or where a medical device might damage a specific blood component, such as causing hemolysis. Instead, multiphase models have been employed to better mimic blood constituents – and their distribution during flow. The figure, below, shows the evaluation of hematocrit distribution predicted using Computational Fluid Dynamics along a micro-scale surface.

Figure 3: Micro-scale reconstruction of the wall of a descending left coronary artery
Figure 3: Micro-scale reconstruction of the wall of a descending left coronary artery, and evaluation of hematocrit distribution predicted using computational fluid dynamics. The surface reconstruction is of a porcine coronary artery endothelial surface, with the physical data obtained using Atomic Force Microscopy.  Figures reproduced from Burton et al., 2019  & Owen et al., 2020.

More recently a discrete, Lagrangian phase matching the density of platelets has been included in Eulerian-Eulerian blood models. This has allowed the identification of regions in a constricted blood vessel where the tracked particles experiencing high-shear stress and high residence time can be identified, in combination with the red blood cell phase experiencing low-shear strain rates. See the animation of platelet flow showing exposure to sufficiently low aggregatory shear levels (<50 s-1) in the diseased MKM5 coronary artery bifurcation.

Dynamic mechanical analysis of soft connective tissues

Daniel is interested in the dynamics of soft tissues. An example as applied to orthopaedics, is on how the dynamics of articular cartilage links to its underlying bone; particularly fast-response loading which may be relevant to activities such as walking, and faster-loading still which may relate to trauma.

Figure 4: Experimental workflow for the analysis and experimental testing of human articular cartilage
Figure 4: Experimental workflow for the analysis and experimental testing of human articular cartilage obtained from a femoral head. Reproduced from Mountcastle et al., 2019 .

Findings from these studies have implications for the energy transfer from articular cartilage to its subchondral bone, which may subsequently affect the mechanisms of failure observed. Water content, in particular, appears to have a key role in osteochondral dynamics, affecting not only how energy is dissipated but also how it is stored during recoil following loading. A key point is that the mechanics of articular cartilage differ when loaded under non-equilibrium conditions as associated with fast-response loading... for instance, when you go for a walk!

Figure 5: Experimental data obtained from the articular cartilage workflow.
Figure 5: Experimental data obtained from the articular cartilage workflow. Including: [1] sample data obtained from micro-CT when comparing articular-cartilage-on-bone cores from across the tibial plateau; [2] sample hysteresis data obtained for articular cartilage when tested at physiological loading rates and above/below this range; [3] sample data evidencing that water content in articular cartilage alters its mechanical behaviour in terms of measures characterising its ability to store (k’) and dissipate (k’’) energy during dynamic mechanical analysis.
Reproduced from Fell et al., 2019, Lawless et al., 2017 & Crolla et al., 2022.

Other activities

Daniel currently serves on the following editorial boards:

  • BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders;
  • Journal of Healthcare Engineering;
  • Nonlinear Engineering. Modeling and Application.

Daniel is currently serving on both the Course Accreditation Committee and Engineering Course Accreditation Panel for the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.


Recent publications


de Oliveira, DC, Espino, DM, Deorsola, L, Buchan, K, Dawson, D & Shepherd, DET 2023, 'A geometry-based finite element tool for evaluating mitral valve biomechanics', Medical Engineering & Physics, vol. 121, 104067. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.medengphy.2023.104067

Mellors, B, Allen, P, Lavecchia, CE, Mountcastle, S, Cooke, ME, Lawless, BM, Cox, SC, Jones, S & Espino, DM 2023, 'Development and experimental validation of a dynamic numerical model for human articular cartilage', Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Proceedings. Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine, vol. 237, no. 7, pp. 879-889. https://doi.org/10.1177/09544119231180901

Donaldson, D, Samra, M, Axelithioti, P, Parry, L, Suleymenova, K, Dawkins, D, Espino, D, Mahomed, A & Anthony, C 2023, 'Supporting student self-regulated learning via digitally enhanced feedback workshops', Advances in Engineering Education, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 12-40. https://doi.org/DOI: 10.18260/3-1-1153-36051

Crolla, J, Lawless, BM, Cederlund, AA, Aspden, R & Espino, D 2022, 'Analysis of hydration and subchondral bone density on the viscoelastic properties of bovine articular cartilage', BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, vol. 23, no. 1, 228. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-022-05169-0

Thomas-Seale, L, Kanagalingam, S, Kirkman-Brown, J, Attallah, M, Espino, D & Shepherd, D 2022, 'Teaching design for additive manufacturing: efficacy of and engagement with lecture and laboratory approaches', International Journal of Technology and Design Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-022-09741-6

de Oliveira, DC, Espino, DM, Deorsola, L, Mynard, JP, Rajagopal, V, Buchan, K, Dawson, D & Shepherd, DET 2021, 'A toolbox for generating scalable mitral valve morphometric models', Computers in Biology and Medicine, vol. 135, 104628. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compbiomed.2021.104628

de Oliveira, DC, Owen, DG, Qian, S, Green, NC, Espino, DM & Shepherd, DET 2021, 'Computational fluid dynamics of the right atrium: Assessment of modelling criteria for the evaluation of dialysis catheters', PLoS ONE, vol. 16, no. 2, e0247438. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0247438

Li, W, Shepherd, D & Espino, D 2021, 'Investigation of the compressive viscoelastic properties of brain tissue under time and frequency dependent loading conditions', Annals of Biomedical Engineering, vol. 49, no. 12, pp. 3737-3747. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10439-021-02866-0

Owen, DG, de Oliveira, DC, Neale, EK, Shepherd, DET & Espino, DM 2021, 'Numerical modelling of blood rheology and platelet activation through a stenosed left coronary artery bifurcation', PLoS ONE, vol. 16, no. 11, e0259196. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259196

Crolla, JP, Britton, MM, Espino, DM & Thomas-Seale, LEJ 2021, 'The dynamic viscoelastic characterisation and magnetic resonance imaging of poly(vinyl alcohol) cryogel: identifying new attributes and opportunities', Materials Science and Engineering C, vol. 129, 112383. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msec.2021.112383

Fraser, S, Barberio, CG, Chaudhry, T, Power, DM, Tan, S, Lawless, BM & Espino, DM 2021, 'The effect of injurious compression on the elastic, hyper-elastic and visco-elastic properties of porcine peripheral nerves', Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, vol. 121, 104624. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmbbm.2021.104624

Crolla, JP, Britton, MM, Espino, DM & Thomas-Seale, LEJ 2021, 'The orthotropic viscoelastic characterisation of sub-zero 3D-printed poly(vinyl alcohol) cryogel', MRS Advances, vol. 6, no. 18, pp. 467-471. https://doi.org/10.1557/s43580-021-00086-1

Relf, H, Barberio, C & Espino, D 2020, 'A Finite Element Model for Trigger Finger', prosthesis, pp. 168-184. <https://www.mdpi.com/2673-1592/2/3/15/htm>

Conference contribution

Donaldson, D, Samra, M, Axelithioti, P, Parry, L, Suleymenova, K, Dawkins, D, Espino, D, Anthony, C & Mahomed, A 2020, A DIGITAL FEEDBACK TOOL TO ENHANCE STUDENT LEARNING. in Advanced HE Teaching and Learning Conference 2020: Teaching in the spotlight: Creative thinking to enhance the student experience: From curriculum design to student success: 7-9 July 2020, UK.


Todros, S, Castilho, M, Espino, DM & Pavan, PG 2023, 'Editorial: Mechanical behavior of hydrogels for soft tissue replacement and regeneration', Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, vol. 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fbioe.2023.1254076

View all publications in research portal