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Dr. Brian Lawn

Research Interests

  • Characterization of damage and fracture in enamel and other biomineralized tissues. How microstructural complexion of tooth enamel dictates processess of damage resistance, via crack arrest and self-healing mechanisms
  • Development of biomimetic composites through understanding of damage tolerance mechanisms in natural structures
  • Analysis of replacement materials for all-ceramic dental crowns. Development of predictive 'virtual test' tools, whereby a dental practitioner can accurately predetermine an optimal restoration protocol from simple measurements of any given tooth condition
  • Anthropological implications of tooth structure in relation to diet, as inferred by tooth damage in extant and extinct species


Figure 1(left): Fracture of glass 'dome' structure simulating failure of dental crown under simulated occlusal load; Figure 2(center): Fracture of extracted human molar tooth under analogous loading conditions; Figure 3(right): Transverse section of human tooth, showing internal closed cracks ('tufts') in enamel; the tufts are sources of weakness, but the complex microstructure constrains crack growth


Publications - Downloads


Awards and Honors

  • Honorary Doctorate in Engineering, University of Western Australia, 2008
  • Honorary Fellow, International Congress of Fracture, 2005
  • Honorary Professor, Jiatong Xi’an University, 2003
  • ISI Highly Cited Researcher, 2001
  • U.S. National Academy of Engineering, 2001
  • Ross Coffin Purdy Award, American Ceramic Society, 1999
  • Hobart M. Kraner Award, American Ceramic Society, 1991
  • Fellow, American Ceramic Society, 1986
  • Edward Uhler Condon Award, National Bureau of Standards, 1984
  • Sosman Award, American Ceramic Society, 1982


Current Collaborative Programs



NIST Fellow
Ceramics Division
NIST Fellows and Associates

Employment History:

1987-present: NIST Fellow, National Institute of Standards and Technology
2004-: Adjunct Professor, University of Western Australia
2004: Gledden Visiting Senior Fellow, University of Western Australia
1999-: Adjunct Professor, Curtin University, Western Australia
1992: Visiting Professor, Curtin University, Western Australia
1991-1995: Adjunct Professor, Carnegie Mellon University
1987-1995: Adjunct Professor, Lehigh University
1982-1987: Physicist, National Institute of Standards and Technology
1979: Visiting Professor, University of California at Berkeley
1976-1981: Associate Professor, University of New South Wales
1975, 1979: Guest Scientist, National Bureau of Standards
1971, 1975: Visiting Lecturer, University of Sussex
1968-1975: Lecturer, University of New South Wales
1967: Postdoctoral Fellow, Brown University
1964-1966: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bristol 


Hon. Doc., Engineering, University of Western Australia, 2008
Ph.D., Physics, University of Western Australia, 1963
B.Sc. (Hons.), Physics, University of Western Australia, 1959


Phone: 301-975-5775
Email: brian.lawn@nist.gov
Fax: 301-975-5334