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 120 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 (NIH), and the Australian National Health & Medical Research Council (NH&MRC).

Project links

Teaching | Current

BIOMENG791 - Advanced Biomedical Engineering Design (fourth year biomedical design course mentor)

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

Postgraduate supervision

  • Lysea Muñoz - Helping virtual humans reach further with neuromechanical models
  • 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)
  • Laura Carmen (co-supervised with Julie Choisne)
  • Andrew Lowry (co-supervised with Justin Fernandez)
  • Salim Bin Gouth (co-supervised with Geoff Handsfield)
  • Randika Perera (co-supervised with Geoff Handsfield)


2020 Winner, Vice-Chancellors Commercialisation Medal, University of Auckland

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
  • neurological disorders, including stroke and cerebral palsy
  • patellofemoral pain
  • non-contact knee ligament injury
  • orthopaedics
  • wearable sensors

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • ABI Executive Member
  • ABI Principal Investigator
  • ABI Budget Committee
  • Executive Member, International Society of Biomechanics
  • Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ) Research Associate

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Bahl, J. S., Zhang, J., Killen, B. A., Taylor, M., Solomon, L. B., Arnold, J. B., ... Thewlis, D. (2019). Statistical shape modelling versus linear scaling: Effects on predictions of hip joint centre location and muscle moment arms in people with hip osteoarthritis. Journal of biomechanics, 85, 164-172. 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2019.01.031
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ju Zhang
  • Sahrmann, A. S., Stott, N. S., Besier, T. F., Fernandez, J. W., & Handsfield, G. G. (2019). Soleus muscle weakness in cerebral palsy: Muscle architecture revealed with Diffusion Tensor Imaging. PloS one, 14 (2)10.1371/journal.pone.0205944
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Geoffrey Handsfield, Justin Fernandez, Ngaire Stott
  • Suwarganda, E. K., Diamond, L. E., Lloyd, D. G., Besier, T. F., Zhang, J., Killen, B. A., ... Saxby, D. J. (2019). Minimal medical imaging can accurately reconstruct geometric bone models for musculoskeletal models. PloS one, 14 (2)10.1371/journal.pone.0205628
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ju Zhang
  • Sheerin, K. R., Reid, D., & Besier, T. F. (2019). The measurement of tibial acceleration in runners-A review of the factors that can affect tibial acceleration during running and evidence-based guidelines for its use. Gait & posture, 67, 12-24. 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2018.09.017
  • Al-Dirini, R. M. A., Martelli, S., Huff, D., Zhang, J., Clement, J. G., Besier, T., & Taylor, M. (2018). Evaluating the primary stability of standard vs lateralised cementless femoral stems - A finite element study using a diverse patient cohort. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 59, 101-109. 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2018.09.002
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ju Zhang
  • Shim, V. B., Handsfield, G. G., Fernandez, J. W., Lloyd, D. G., & Besier, T. F. (2018). Combining in silico and in vitro experiments to characterize the role of fascicle twist in the Achilles tendon. Scientific reports, 8 (1)10.1038/s41598-018-31587-z
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Vickie Shim, Geoffrey Handsfield, Justin Fernandez
  • Fernandez, J., Mithraratne, K., Alipour, M., Handsfield, G., Besier, T., & Zhang, J. (2018). Towards rapid prediction of personalised muscle mechanics: integration with diffusion tensor imaging. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering: Imaging and Visualization10.1080/21681163.2018.1519850
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Geoffrey Handsfield, Justin Fernandez, Kumar Mithraratne, Massoud Alipour, Ju Zhang
  • Zhang, J., & Besier, T. F. (2017). Accuracy of femur reconstruction from sparse geometric data using a statistical shape model. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, 20 (5), 566-576. 10.1080/10255842.2016.1263301
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ju Zhang


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 8, Room 801
New Zealand

Web links