Professor Thor Franciscus Besier

BPhEd (Hons) Otago, PhD in Biomechanics W.Aust


Thor is a Professor at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and has a joint appointment with the Department of Engineering Science. He completed his PhD in musculoskeletal biomechanics at The University of Western Australia in 2000 and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Bioengineering Department at Stanford University from 2003 to 2006. Thor established Stanford's Human Performance Laboratory as the Director of Research and was a faculty member in the Department of Orthopaedics at Stanford from 2006 to 2010, before returning home to New Zealand in 2011.

Research | Current

Thor’s research combines medical imaging with computational modelling to understand mechanisms of musculoskeletal injury and disease. In particular, he is interested in open source modelling tools to rapidly generate musculoskeletal models that can be used to diagnose and treat injury and disease. He has published more than 100 scientific articles on these topics and has received funding from the Royal Society of NZ Marsden Fund, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the NZ Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment (MBIE), the Australian Research Council (ARC), US National Institutes of Health, and the Australian National Health & Medical Research Council (NH&MRC).

Project links

Teaching | Current

BIOMENG771 - Musculoskeletal and Orthopaedic Biomechanics (fourth year elective engineering course)

Postgraduate supervision

  • Thorben Pauli - Musculoskeletal modelling of the shoulder
  • Duncan Bakke - Gait retraining for stroke patients
  • Andi Liu - Finite element modelling of hip joint muscles
  • Nynke Rooks - Reproducibility of knee modelling
  • Homayoon Zarshenas - Intuitive control of a robotic exoskeleton of the ankle
  • Soroosh Hosseinnejad (co-supervised with Bryan Ruddy)
  • Mahsa Montahan (co-supervised with Bryan Ruddy)
  • Yahya Zakariya Yahya (co-supervised with Bryan Ruddy)
  • Pablo Ortega-Auriol (co-supervised with Angus McMorland)
  • Kelly Sheerin (Auckland University of Technology, co-supervised with Duncan Reid and Denise Taylor)
  • Joseph Lynch (Australian National University, Canberra)
  • Laura Carmen (co-supervised with Julie Choisne)
  • Salim Bin Gouth (co-supervised with Geoff Handsfield)
  • Randika Perera (co-supervised with Geoff Handsfield)


2019  Faculty of Engineering Students’ Choice Top Teacher Award 2019

2017  Winner, HealthTech Award for FormusLabs, NZ HealthTech Week.

2016 Semifinalist for New Zealander of the Year: Innovator of the Year category

2015 Winner, Australian and New Zealand Society of Biomechanics (ANZSB) Publication of the Year for: Pizzolato, C., Lloyd, D. G., Sartori, M., Ceseracciu, E., Besier, T. F., Fregly, B. J., & Reggiani, M. (2015). CEINMS: A toolbox to investigate the influence of different neural control solutions on the prediction of muscle excitation and joint moments during dynamic motor tasks. J Biomech, 48(14), 3929-3936. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2015.09.021

2015 Winner, Samsung Springboard, "IMeasureU"

2014 Winner, NZ Innovators Award, ICT & Cloud Solutions for “IMeasureU”

2013  Winner, Spark $100k Challenge, University of Auckland Entrepreneurship Challenge

2013  Marsden Fund full award, Royal Society of New Zealand

2013  Nominated for NZ Innovators Awards for “Innovation in Health & Science”

2010  Finalist, Clinical Biomechanics Award, American Society of Biomechanics (co-author)

2010  Walter Wolf Award, Society of Nuclear Medicine (co-author)

2009  Clinical Biomechanics Award, American Society of Biomechanics (co-author)

2006  Lauterbur Award, Society of Computed Body Tomography and Magnetic Resonance (co-author)

2005  Inaugural recipient of the Stanford Regenerative Medicine Postdoctoral Scholarship

2003  ASICS Best Paper-Injury Prevention and Health Promotion, Sports Medicine Australia (co-author)

2003  Finalist, Clinical Biomechanics Award, International Society of Biomechanics

2002  Recipient of “Neil Hamilton Fairley” scholarship, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia.

2001  Young Investigator Award, International Society of Biomechanics in Sport

1999  “Prince de Merode” Award, IOC Sport Science Congress

1999  Young Investigator Award, Sports Medicine Australia

Areas of expertise

Computational modelling of musculoskeletal injury and disease, particularly:

  • knee osteoarthritis
  • patellofemoral pain
  • non-contact knee ligament injury
  • orthopaedics
  • wearable sensors

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • ABI Principal Investigator
  • ABI Budget Committee
  • Executive Member, International Society of Biomechanics
  • Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering
  • Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ) Research Associate

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 8, Room 801
New Zealand

Web links