Professor Poul Michael Fonss Nielsen



Poul has a Bachelor of Science in Maths and Physics, and a Bachelor of Engineering and Phd in Engineering Science, from the University of Auckland.

Poul is affiliated with several groups within the University:

Research | Current

Poul's research focuses on using novel instrumentation, detailed computational models, and quantitative descriptions of physical processes to gain a better understanding of human physiology. Many of his projects couple mathematical modelling with innovative instrumentation to improve our ability to understand and interpret measurements of complex biological systems, subject to the constraints of well-understood physical conservation and balance laws.

Poul's research projects include:

  • Physiome: an integrated multi-centric program to design, develop, implement, test and document, archive and disseminate quantitative information and integrative models of the functional behaviour of organelles, cells, tissues, organs, and organisms;
  • CellML: an open standard to store and exchange computer-based mathematical models;
  • FieldML: a declarative language for representing the dynamic geometry and solution fields of computational models;
  • Breast mechanics: computational biomechanical models to improve the detection of breast cancer using information obtained from a variety of imaging modalities;
  • Muscle microcalorimetry: to identify the dynamic stiffness of isolated rat trabeculae while simultaneously recording muscle heat production;
  • Soft tissue mechanics: coupling large deformation theory, structurally-based constitutive relations, and nonlinear identification techniques to understand the mechanics of soft tissues;
  • Pelvic floor mechanics: modelling the second stage of labour and pelvic floor prolapse;
  • Modelling shaken baby syndrome: gaining an understanding of the relationships between shaking insults and soft tissue injury in infants;
  • Bioinstrumentation and medical devices: development of novel instrumentation for measuring biophysical properties of living tissue (microrobotics, stereoscopy, optical coherence tomography, spectral imaging, interferometry).

Postgraduate supervision



  • Thiranja Prasad Babarenda Gamage, Modelling and identifying the mechanical properties of skin and underlying tissues
  • Amir Haji Rassouliha, Hardware acceleration of cross-correlation-based identification of surface geometry of deformable bodies
  • Matthew Parker, Model-based identification of the mechanical properties of living skin
  • Nikini Puhulwelle Gamage, Model-based prediction of brain injury associated with shaken baby syndrome  
  • Adam Reeve,The mechanics of vascularised tissue
  • Samuel Richardson, Development of an optical coherence tomography based skin cancer diagnostic tool
  • Oliver Thompson, Interpretation and Medical Application of Laser Biospeckle


  • 2011 - 2013: James Cook Research Fellowship, Royal Society of New Zealand.
  • 2011 - present: Liggins Institute Honorary Professor.
  • 2010: OCCAM Visiting Fellow, University of Oxford.

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Schneider, M. T., Zhang, J., Crisco, J. J., Weiss, A.-P. C., Ladd, A. L., Mithraratne, K., ... Besier, T. (2017). Trapeziometacarpal joint contact varies between men and women during three isometric functional tasks. Medical Engineering and Physics, 50, 43-49. 10.1016/j.medengphy.2017.09.002
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Kumar Mithraratne, Thor Besier, Marco Schneider, Ju Zhang
  • Goh, C. M., Nielsen, P. M. F., & Nash, M. P. (2017). A stabilised mixed meshfree method for incompressible media: Application to linear elasticity and stokes flow. Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering10.1016/j.cma.2017.10.002
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Martyn Nash
  • Kruger, J. A., Budgett, S. C., Wong, V., Nielsen, P. M. F., Nash, M. P., Smalldridge, J., ... Taberner, A. J. (2017). Characterizing levator-ani muscle stiffness pre- and post-childbirth in European and Polynesian women in New Zealand: A pilot study. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 96 (10), 1234-1242. 10.1111/aogs.13186
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jennifer Kruger, Stephanie Budgett, Martyn Nash, Jackie Smalldridge, Andrew Taberner
  • Johnston, C. M., Nielsen, P. M. F., Taberner, A. J., & Hunter, I. W. (2017). Vapor pressure thermometry at room temperature. I2MTC 2017 - 2017 IEEE International Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference, Proceedings. 10.1109/I2MTC.2017.7969857
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Andrew Taberner
  • Wittek, A., Joldes, G., Nielsen, P. M. F., Doyle, B. J., & Miller, K. (2017). Computational biomechanics for medicine: From algorithms to models and applications. 10.1007/978-3-319-54481-6
  • Puhulwelle Gamage, N. T., Knutsen, A. K., Pham, D. L., Taberner, A. J., Nash, M. P., & Nielsen, P. M. F. (2017). Abusive head trauma: Developing a computational adult head model to predict brain deformations under mild accelerations. Computational Biomechanics for Medicine: From Algorithms to Models and Applications (pp. 147-157). 10.1007/978-3-319-54481-6_13
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Martyn Nash, Andrew Taberner
  • HajiRassouliha, A., Taberner, A. J., Nash, M. P., & Nielsen, P. M. F. (2017). Subpixel phase-based image registration using Savitzky-Golay differentiators in gradient-correlation. Computer Vision and Image Understanding10.1016/j.cviu.2017.11.003
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Martyn Nash, Amir Haji Rassouliha, Andrew Taberner
  • Flynn, C., Nazari, M. A., Perrier, P., Fels, S., Nielsen, P. M. F., & Payan, Y. (2017). Computational Modeling of the Passive and Active Components of the Face. Biomechanics of Living Organs: Hyperelastic Constitutive Laws for Finite Element Modeling (pp. 377-394). 10.1016/B978-0-12-804009-6.00018-3


Contact details

Primary location

Level 5, Room 511
New Zealand

Social links

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