Associate Professor Thor Franciscus Besier

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

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Associate Professor
Associate Professor


Thor is an Associate 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 75 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

ENGGEN140 - Engineering Biology and Chemistry (first year engineering course)

ENGSCI772 - Musculoskeletal and Orthopaedic Biomechanics (fourth year elective engineering course)

Postgraduate supervision

  • Mousa Kazemi Real-time estimation of the hip and knee contact forces for motion retraining
  • Helen Liley Modelling cartilage biomechanics in the equine fetlock joint
  • Marco Tien-Yueh Schneider Modelling the form and function of the carpometacarpal joint
  • Daniel Chen Optimal haptic feedback for lower limb gait retraining
  • Thorben Pauli EMG-controller for upper arm exoskeleton


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

Committees/Professional groups/Services

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

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • 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
  • Sartori, M., Fernandez, J. W., Modenese, L., Carty, C. P., Barber, L. A., Oberhofer, K., ... Besier, T. F. (2017). Toward modeling locomotion using electromyography-informed 3D models: Application to cerebral palsy. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Systems Biology and Medicine, 9 (2)10.1002/wsbm.1368
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Justin Fernandez, Ngaire Stott, Geoffrey Handsfield, Ju Zhang
  • Zhang, J., Fernandez, J., Hislop-Jambrich, J., & Besier, T. (2016). Lower limb estimation from sparse landmarks using an articulated shape model. Journal of Biomechanics, 49 (16), 3875-3881. 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2016.10.021
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ju Zhang, Justin Fernandez
  • Zhang, J., Hislop-Jambrich, J., & Besier, T. (2016). Predictive statistical models of baseline variations in 3-D femoral cortex morphology. Medical Engineering & Physics, 38 (5), 450-457. 10.1016/j.medengphy.2016.02.003
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ju Zhang
  • Fernandez, J., Zhang, J., Heidlauf, T., Sartori, M., Besier, T., Röhrle O, & Lloyd, D. (2016). Multiscale musculoskeletal modelling, data–model fusion and electromyography-informed modelling. Interface Focus, 6 (2), 1-11. 10.1098/rsfs.2015.0084
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Justin Fernandez, Ju Zhang
  • Chen, D., Anderson, I., Walker, C., & Besier, T. (2016). Lower extremity lateral skin stretch perception for haptic feedback. IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 9 (1), 62-68. 10.1109/TOH.2016.2516012
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Iain Anderson, Cameron Walker
  • Chen, D. K. Y., Xu, J., Shull, P. B., & Besier, T. F. (2016). Tactile Apparent Movement as a Modality for Lower Limb Haptic Feedback. Paper presented at 10th International Conference on Haptics - Perception, Devices, Control, and Applications (EuroHaptics), Imperial Coll London, London, ENGLAND. 4 July - 7 July 2016. HAPTICS: PERCEPTION, DEVICES, CONTROL, AND APPLICATIONS, EUROHAPTICS 2016, PT II. (pp. 11). 10.1007/978-3-319-42324-1_37
  • Gardiner, B. S., Woodhouse, F. G., Besier, T. F., Grodzinsky, A. J., Lloyd, D. G., Zhang, L., & Smith, D. W. (2016). Predicting Knee Osteoarthritis. Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 44 (1), 222-233. 10.1007/s10439-015-1393-5


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 8, Room 801
New Zealand

Web links