Professor Merryn Tawhai



Merryn Tawhai graduated from the University of Auckland with a PhD in Engineering Science in 2001. At the Auckland Bioengineering Institute Merryn has established a research programme in applied computational physiology of the lung. She was the inaugural Maurice Paykel Postdoctoral Fellow and has been a recipient of RSNZ Marsden, National Institutes of Health, Health Research Council of New Zealand, and MBIE grants.

Research | Current

My research is focused on the development of integrative computational models of the pulmonary system and their application in understanding structure-function interactions in normal physiology and in the pathophysiology of pulmonary disease. I have particular interest in the application of computational modelling to improving clinical diagnosis and monitoring of pulmonary disease, particularly in the older lung.

Current funded research projects

NIH grant HL114494 (co-I, PI C-L Lin) An integrative statistics-guided image-based multi-scale lung model.

Green Lane Education and Research Fund (co-PI) Correlation of functional and morphological change in the ageing lung

MBIE grant 20959-NMTS-UOA (co-PI) Bioengineering technologies for breast and lung

NIH grant HL103405 (co-PI) A multiscale approach to airway hyperresponsiveness: from molecule to organ

Previous funded research projects

NIH grant HL094315 (AI, PI C-L Lin) Multiscale interaction of pulmonary gas flow and lung tissue mechanics

HRC grant HRC-09-143 (PI) Predicting pulmonary hypertension

NIH grant HL087789 (co-PI) Airway hyper-responsiveness: from molecule to organ

NIH grant HL064368 (co-PI, E.A. Hoffman lead PI) Image and model based analysis of lung disease

NIH/NSF grant EB005823 (AI, PI C-L Lin) Multiscale simulation of gas flow in the human lung

NIH grant HL080285 (consultant) Quantitative CT-based lung atlas of the mouse

RSNZ Marsden grant 01-UOA-070 (co-PI) Integrating tissue and airway mechanics and the pulmonary circulation into a mathematical model of the human lungs

Project links

Lungs and Respiratory System

Teaching | Current

MBCHB 221 - Respiratory Physiology

Postgraduate supervision

Current graduate students


  • Yik Ching (Joshua) Lee (2010-), Predicting pulmonary hypertension (Alys Clark co-supervisor)
  • Wendy Kang (2011-), A computational model of integrative lung physiology for studying nasal high flow therapy (Alys Clark co-supervisor)
  • Karthik Subramaniam (2011-), Lung soft tissue mechanics during normal and pressure-supported breathing (Haribalan Kumar co-supervisor)
  • Mabelle Lin (2012-), A computational model of the placental chorionic villous (Alys Clark main supervisor)
  • Mahyar Osanlouy (2013-), Predicting physiology from morphology in the ageing lung (Haribalan Kumar co-supervisor)
  • Rojan Sangian (2013-), Modelling the uterine circulation to understand the causes and consequences of inadequate spiral artery remodelling (Alys Clark main supervisor)
  • Hamed Minaeizaeim (2014-), Computing abnormalities in chest X-ray (Alys Clark main supervisor)



  • Matthew Barrett (2009-2013), A BOLD Idea: Physiologically-Based Modelling of the Blood Oxygen Level Dependent Functional MRI Signal
  • Wilson Chiu (2006-2011), Ventilation distribution: from cell to whole lung
  • Jennine Mitchell (2006-2010), A computational model of the mechanisms that influence inert gas measurement of regional ventilation
  • Annalisa Swan (2006-2010), A computational model of pulmonary gas exchange
  • Kerry Hedges (2002-2010), A computational model of forced expiration
  • Nicolas Warren (2006-2010), A multiscale computational model of fluid transport in the human bronchial airways
  • Kelly Burrowes (2001-2005), An anatomically-based mathematical model of the human pulmonary circulation


  • Arthur Postles (2013-2014), Arterial wall shear stress in chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension
  • Ho-Fung Chan (2012-2013), Multimodality image registration for bronchiectasis
  • Shijie Yin (2007-2008), An anatomically based mathematical model of the human placenta
  • Tingting Zhao (2006-2007), Modelling gravitational deformations of the sheep lung
  • Roseanne Leaupepe (2006-2007), A mathematical model of the effect of fibre angle on contraction of the murine airway


2011: Most cited article award for 2006-2010, Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology

2007- current : Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Iowa

2005: TSANZ Boehringer/Ingelheim award for best conference presentation on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

2004/2005: Maurice Paykel Postdoctoral Fellow – The Woolf Fisher Trust

1996-1998: Graduate Research in Industry Fellowship - N.Z. FoRST


Auckland Bioengineering Institute

2014 - current:     Acting General Manager

2013 - current:     Deputy Director

Principal Investigator, Lung & Respiratory System Group

Areas of expertise

  • Computational physiology
  • Mathematical models of integrative lung function
  • Multi-scale multi-physics models

Committees/Professional groups/Services

2013 – current:     Panel of Independent Chairs for PhD examinations

2012 – current:     Executive Committee, Auckland Bioengineering Institute

2010 - current:      Faculty of Engineering Staffing Committee

2010 – current:     PBRF and FRDF committees, Auckland Bioengineering Institute

2008 - current:      Budget committee, Auckland Bioengineering Institute

2006 - current:      International organising committee, SPIE Medical Imaging Conference (Biomedical Applications in Molecular, Structural, and Functional Imaging)

2013 – current:     Co-chair of the ‘Special Topics’ track for the World Congress of Biomechanics 2014 (>50 invited sessions, >200 speakers)

2012 - current:      Associate Editor for ‘Annals of Biomedical Engineering’

2012 - current:      Editorial Board for ‘Physiology’

2010 - current:      Editorial Board for ‘Pulmonary Circulation’

2009 - current:      Member of Technical Subcommittee on Cardiopulmonary Systems, IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society

2008 - current:      Associate Editor for IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Howe, S. L., Chase, J. G., Redmond, D. P., Morton, S. E., Kim, K. T., Pretty, C., ... Desaive, T. (2020). Inspiratory respiratory mechanics estimation by using expiratory data for reverse-triggered breathing cycles. Computer methods and programs in biomedicine, 18610.1016/j.cmpb.2019.105184
  • Herrmann, J., Lilitwat, W., Tawhai, M. H., & Kaczka, D. W. (2020). High-Frequency Oscillatory Ventilation and Ventilator-Induced Lung Injury: Size Does Matter. Critical care medicine, 48 (1), e66-e73. 10.1097/ccm.0000000000004073
  • Morton, S. E., Knopp, J. L., Chase, J. G., Möller K, Docherty, P., Shaw, G. M., & Tawhai, M. (2020). Authors' Response to Drs. Ece Salihoglu and Ziya Salihoglu's Letter to the Editor. Annals of biomedical engineering, 48 (1), 2-3. 10.1007/s10439-019-02339-5
  • Dobson, R., Herbst, P., Candy, S., Brott, T., Garrett, J., Humphrey, G., ... Warren, J. (2019). Understanding End-User Perspectives of Mobile Pulmonary Rehabilitation (mPR): Cross-Sectional Survey and Interviews. JMIR formative research, 3 (4)10.2196/15466
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rosie Dobson, Gayl Humphrey, Jim Warren, Pauline Herbst
  • Tawhai, M. H., Clark, A. R., & Chase, J. G. (2019). The Lung Physiome and virtual patient models: From morphometry to clinical translation. Morphologie : bulletin de l'Association des anatomistes, 103 (343), 131-138. 10.1016/j.morpho.2019.09.003
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Alys Clark
  • Clark, A. R., Burrowes, K. S., & Tawhai, M. H. (2019). Ventilation/Perfusion Matching: Of Myths, Mice, and Men. Physiology (Bethesda, Md.), 34 (6), 419-429. 10.1152/physiol.00016.2019
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Alys Clark, Kelly Burrowes
  • Herrmann, J., Tawhai, M. H., & Kaczka, D. W. (2019). Strain, strain rate, and mechanical power: An optimization comparison for oscillatory ventilation. International journal for numerical methods in biomedical engineering, 35 (10)10.1002/cnm.3238
  • Ebrahimi, B. S., Tawhai, M. H., Kumar, H., & Clark, A. R. (2019). Wave reflection in an anatomical model of the pulmonary circulation in local and global hypertensive disease.. Conference proceedings : ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Annual Conference. 10.1109/embc.2019.8857948
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Alys Clark, Haribalan Kumar


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 7, Room 709
New Zealand

Web links