Invited Speakers

Invited Speakers for ABC11 include:

Neil Broom

Neil is a professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Auckland.  Initially trained in engineering materials Neil has spent most of his research life involved in experimental tissue mechanics and specifically the collagen-based connective tissues.  Publications from his spine research group have been awarded five ISSLS prizes, the NASS Prize and five Spine Society of Australia prizes.  Neil is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of NZ and was awarded the Society’s MacDiarmid Medal in 2013 in recognition of his research group’s contribution to our understanding of soft tissue biomechanics.  He and research collaborator Ashvin Thambyah have recently co-authored a full-length monograph titled THE SOFT-HARD TISSUE JUNCTION: STRUCTURE, MECHANICS AND FUNCTION due to be published later this year by Cambridge University Press.  Neil has also written books in the very different area of science and theology, these published by Ashgate-Avebury UK, InterVarsity Press USA and UK, and Steele Roberts Aotearoa NZ.


Creating robust junctions between mechanically and structurally disparate materials are the ‘hard’ stuff of engineering design and yet nature revels in their achievement.  Impressive examples of such robust junctions are found in the musculoskeletal system and include the osteochondral region of the articulating joints, the intervertebral disc endplate system and the ligament/tendon entheses.  All three junctions involve the integration of compliant, collagen-rich tissues – each possessing very different architectures – with a rigid, mineralized tissue substrate.  This talk will describe a variety of experimental approaches we have employed in our experimental tissue mechanics research group to understand better the micro-to-nano scale structures of each of these primary junctions and how these structures relate to their specific mechanical function.



Alys Clark

Alys Clark’s research interests span mathematics, biomedical engineering and experimental physiology. Her main focus is on understanding how we get oxygen from our environment, before and after birth, and using this new knowledge to improve diagnosis and treatment strategies when things go wrong. Alys develops computational models of lungs, placenta and ovaries, which account for complexities in their structure and can predict the impact of disease on organ function. Alys obtained her BA from University of Oxford, and PhD from University of Adelaide, both in applied mathematics. She has worked at Auckland Bioengineering Institute since 2008 and leads research in both placental and pulmonary physiology. She is a current awardee of a RSNZ Rutherford Discovery Fellowship (2014), and the JH Michell Medal for Applied Mathematics (2017).


We all started life as a sperm and an egg and spent the first nine months of a life supported by our mother. We got all the nutrients that we needed during that time from her blood, and to keep up with our ever-increasing demands for nutrition, and growth our mother’s vascular system had to adapt dramatically. The dynamic interaction between the circulatory system of mother and fetus is critical for successful development, and problems in this system have been linked to still birth, fetal growth, and long-term health problems including heart disease and diabetes. Pregnancy is a particularly difficult time to observe clinically, as growth and development is so rapid, and many clinical tools (CT for example) are contraindicated. Therefore, to improve diagnosis and management of pregnancy complications we need to make better use of the relatively low-resolution imaging modalities like ultrasound and provide improved physiological interpretations of clinical tests. There is significant opportunity for computational modelling to guide development of new clinical tests and to contribute to treatments for pregnancy complications. I will talk about my experiences in developing and interpreting computational models of transport of nutrients from mother to baby in early life, some of the challenges and of working in such a dynamic period of development, and opportunities for improving outcomes in such a critical time of our development.


Elizabeth Clarke

Dr Clarke has a background in Mechanical (Biomedical) Engineering and Neuroscience. Her PhD research investigated biomechanics of paediatric spine and spinal cord injury. Dr Clarke’s broad research interest is musculoskeletal biomechanics. Her research investigates age-related changes in tissue and joint biomechanics, and how these changes affect injury and disease (mechanisms, thresholds and recovery). She also researches how musculoskeletal pathologies affect tissue and joint biomechanics, and how tissue and joint biomechanics affect musculoskeletal pathologies. Dr Clarke’s specific research projects include spine/spinal cord biomechanics, paediatric and elderly injury biomechanics, tendinopathy, ligament injury, osteoarthritis, and clinical imaging biomechanics. These programs involve the use of established animal models as well as emerging, non-invasive technologies for in vivo human studies.


Tim David

Professor David holds a Professorial position in the College of Engineering at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He has been successful in gaining time on a number of large computational facilities, notably the US Dept of Energy Argonne National Labs Blue Gene facility (MIRA) and the Magnus architecture at Perth , Western Australia. In collaboration with NASA Scientists at NASA Ames Centre in California Professor David has developed detailed computational dynamics of blood  flow in the cerebro-vasculature simulating micro-gravity conditions. At present Professor David researches into the investigation of physiologically complex behaviour of cells, notably in the cerebral cortex and the arterial bifurcations. This is accomplished using both partial and ordinary differential equations which account for cellular concentrations of ionic species as well as the membrane potential of those cells. Due to the number of cells involved in the process and the complexity of the chemical species and their associated reactions the work requires considerable computational resource. Professor David’s research area is primarily concerned with the development and solution (analytic and numerical) of complex physiology. This is accomplished through the use of massively parallel algorithms simulating the dynamics of large vascular trees onto which is mapped large sets of dierential equations (both ordinary and partial) simulating complex cellular functions in the brain. In particular Professor David’s group has developed a state-of-the-art in-silico  model of the cortical slice of brain tissue which allows for experiments not capable of being done (either ethically or logistically ) in the laboratory. It focusses on the simulation of the ability for the brain to locally regulate it’s own blood supply. This allows for investigation into a number of neurodegenerative deseases including, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.


The neurovascular coupling (NVC) mechanism, the cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen consumption, and the cerebral blood volume (CBV) are known to contribute to the fMRI BOLD response, however a thorough understanding of these factors has yet to be fully established. The NVC response, the ability to locally adjust vascular resistance as a function of neuronal activity, is believed to be mediated by a number of different signalling mechanisms. The talk will describe the integrated model of neurovascular coupling and the BOLD response with the ability to simulate the fMRI BOLD responses due to continuous neuronal spiking, bursting and cortical spreading depression (CSD) along with the underlying complex vascular coupling and the astrocytic syncytium allowing spatial buffering through gap junction protein connexins. Bursting phenomena provides relatively clear BOLD signals as long as the time between bursts is not too short. For short burst periods the BOLD signal remains constant even though the neuron is in a predominantly bursting mode. Simulation of CSD exhibits large negative BOLD signals. The comparison with experimental cerebral blood flow (CBF) data indicates the possible existence of multiple neural pathways influencing the vascular response. Initial negative BOLD signals occur for all simulations due to the rate at which the metabolic oxygen consumption occurs relative to the dilation of the perfusing cerebro-vasculature.



Marco Domingos

Marco Domingos is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE) at the University of Manchester (UoM), UK. He holds a PhD Cum Laude in Mechanical Engineering, awarded by the University of Girona (Spain), and a first degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria (Portugal). He is currently a Principal Investigator at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (UK) where his group is investigating the development of physiologically relevant tissue models for the study of complex cellular mechanisms underpinning tissue regeneration and disease initiation/progression. His primary research interests encompass the integration of advanced 3D Bioprinting techniques, stem cells and biomaterials towards the development of personalized therapies for the regeneration of skeletal tissues including bone and cartilage. He is the Champion for 3D Bioprinting and Additive Manufacturing at the newly established Sir Henry Royce UK’s National Institute for Materials Science Research and Innovation aiming at accelerating the discovery, manufacture and translation of biomaterials through a platform of state-of-the-art equipment. He is also visiting Professor at the Center for Rapid and Sustainable Product Development (CDRSP, Portugal) and at The University of Naples, Federico II (Naples, Italy). He has authored or co-authored more than 45 publications, including international journals, books and book chapters.




Patria Hume

As AUT Professor of Human Performance, Patria is a leading expert on sports injury prevention, sports performance and biomechanics. She is a Fellow of the International Society of Biomechanics in Sports and gained the prestigious ISBS Geoffrey Dyson Award for her world contributions as a sports biomechanist in 2016.  Patria is an editorial board member for journals Sports Medicine and Sports Medicine Open, and reviews for numerous journals including Sports Biomechanics, British Journal of Sports Medicine, British Medical Journal, Physical Therapy in Sport, and American Journal of Sports Medicine. During an ACC funded post-doctoral fellowship (1994-1996), Patria developed the 10-point plan for injury prevention (now known as SportSmart) which has subsequently been adapted for many sports nationally and internationally. Patria has been the lead researcher on projects for World Rugby on player health and protective equipment, for ACC on sport injury prevention, and for international and national sports organisations on sport performance and injury reduction including the Sydney 2000 anthropometry rowing and kayaking project. Prior to her career as an academic Patria was a world-class rhythmic gymnast and coach. She represented New Zealand for six years and then coached gymnasts who competed at Olympics and won medals at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.


Sports biomechanists need to understand movement; how to describe, analyse and suggest changes to help athletes of all ages move effectively. Understanding mechanisms of injury and risk factors, and introducing interventions to reduce inappropriate forces, are key to being a successful sports injury biomechanist. Working in multidisciplinary teams is effective in improving sport performance and reducing injury risk. Current research examples focused on brain health will be provided to show the integration of biomechanics with physiology, machine learning and injury epidemiology.  Multi-day fatigue computation from a single sensor using an AI framework, development of new methods for analysis of acceleration signals for head impacts monitoring in rugby, and optimization of traumatic brain injury symptom assessment and rehabilitation strategies, will be outlined.


Peter Hunter

Peter Hunter completed his Engineering and Masters of Engineering degrees at the University of Auckland before undertaking his DPhil (PhD) in Physiology at the University of Oxford where he researched finite element modeling of ventricular mechanics.

Since then his major research interests have been around modelling various aspects of the human body using specially developed computational algorithms and an anatomically and biophysically based approach which incorporates the detailed anatomical and microstructural measurements and material properties into the continuum models.

Peter has received numerous accolades for his work and in 2010 was appointed to the NZ Order of Merit. In 2009, he was awarded the Rutherford Medal, New Zealand’s top science award, as well as the KEA World Class NZ award in Research, Science, Technology and Academia.

As recent Co-Chair of the Physiome Committee of the International Union of Physiological Sciences, Peter is helping to lead the world in the use of computational methods for understanding the integrated physiological function of the body in terms of the structure and function of tissues, cells and proteins.

Alongside his role as Director of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and Professor of Engineering Science at the University of Auckland, Peter is also Director of Computational Physiology at Oxford University, and Director of the Medical Technologies Centre of Research Excellence (MedTech CoRE) hosted by the University of Auckland. He also holds honorary or visiting Professorships at a number of universities around the world.

Peter is also on the scientific advisory boards of a number of research institutes in Europe, the US and the Asia-Pacific region.


The ABI is participating in the NIH funded SPARC project to map the autonomic system (, consisting of the parasympathetic, sympathetic and enteric neural pathways. These systems modulate the function of the body’s organs, and provide a control hierarchy which starts with intrinsic neurons embedded in the organs coupled to peripheral ganglia, includes inter-organ (e.g. heart-lung) interactions, and goes all the way up to brain stem centres that coordinate activity and interface to higher levels of brain function. The ABI team is building 3D anatomical finite element ‘scaffolds’ that contain embedded neural pathways and vasculature along with tissue structure and cell types for each organ, and also 2D ‘flatmaps’ that lay out the topology of the neural networks. Both require extensive use of standardised annotations and a major part of the project is to extend existing anatomical ontologies for the autonomic nervous system. The initial focus is on the heart, lungs, stomach, colon and lower urinary tract, but other organs including those of the musculoskeletal system will be included. One of the challenges is dealing with multiple species, as the US experimental groups we work with are gathering data from the mouse, rat and pig, as well as human. We are about one year in to this long term project, which draws on many years of investment by the ABI in a standards based framework for computational physiology (the Physiome Project).

Toshiro Ohashi

Toshiro Ohashi received B.Sc. from Tsukuba University in Japan in 1991, M.Sc. from Tsukuba University in 1994. He joined Tohoku University in Japan in 1994, serving as Research Associate from 1994 to 2002 and as Associate Professor from 2002 to 2009. During this period of time, he received Ph.D. from Tohoku University in 2000. He spent 1-year at Queen Mary University of London, UK from 2004 to 2005 and spent 7-months at Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden in 2008 as Academic Fellow. Since 2009, he has been Full Professor at Hokkaido University. He was also appointed as Visiting Professor at Kyushu University in 2010, as Visiting Lecturer at Kyoto University from 2012 to 2013 and as Visiting Professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia in 2014. His main research areas involve cell/tissue biomechanics and bio-MEMS.


It is known that cells adapt to their surrounding mechanical environment and modulate their morphology and physiological functions. This is because cells may sense and transmit mechanical stimuli and convert them into biochemical signals, which is called mechanotransduction. The cellular mechanism of mechanotransduction is deeply involved in physiology and pathology of our bodies. For example, vascular endothelial cells under blood flow may change their morphology, exhibiting elongation and orientation in the direction of flow and the in vivo response is known to be closely related to generation and development of atherosclerosis. However, how mechanical stimuli are converted into biochemical signals is still unclear. Endothelial primary cilia are believed to be sensory organelles existing on the cell surface and sense blood flow to convert the mechanical signals into biochemical signals. Primary cilia mechanics is therefore crucial for better understanding of endothelial mechanotransduction. The aim of this talk is to briefly present our research work related to measurement of mechanical properties of endothelial primary cilia by using a microfluidics system, a micro-tensile testing system and AFM. The endothelial primary cilia were firstly identified with fluorescence observation, carefully isolated based on an established protocol and then tested by the measurement methods. The microfluidics and the micro-tensile testing systems were in-house developed.



Simo Saarakkala

Dr. Saarakkala currently acts as Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Finland. He is also a Scientific Director of the Infotech Oulu Focus Institute, University of Oulu, Finland. Dr. Saarakkala has published over 130 peer-reviewed scientific articles on different aspects of musculoskeletal imaging and biomechanics, particularly focusing on osteoarthritis. He has acted as a reviewer for over 25 international scientific journals and has also reviewed several international grant applications. He has been an active member in Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) since 2012 and Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) since 2013. He is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of osteoarthritis imaging. Dr. Saarakkala’s research group is focusing on diagnostics and imaging of osteoarthritis at different levels, i.e. from tissue and cell level up to the clinical level. The primary goal in his research is to better understand the etiology and progression of osteoarthritis as well as to develop novel methodologies to diagnose the disease at early phase, and predicts its clinical progression, when there would still be treatment options for patients.

More information:


Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease in the world. It can occur in any joint, but it is the most common in hand, knee, and hip joints. Osteoarthritis is a whole joint disease affecting simultaneously several joint tissues, i.e. articular cartilage, subchondral bone, meniscus, synovium, ligaments and tendons. The typical primary signs of osteoarthritis progression are degeneration and wear of articular cartilage along with pathological remodeling of the subchondral bone.

During the last decades, we have seen the rapid development of different imaging modalities and digital image analysis methods both at the laboratory level, i.e. tissue and cell level, and at the clinical level. This development has allowed both researchers and clinicians to better understand the initiation and progression of osteoarthritis. Specifically, machine learning based approaches for image analysis have become more common and promising during the recent few years.

In this talk, the role of several imaging modalities in osteoarthritis research and clinical diagnostics – along with advanced image analysis methods – will be introduced. From the laboratory imaging methods, we will focus micro-computed tomography (micro-CT), Fourier-transform infrared imaging (FTIRI), Raman microscopic imaging, and polarized light microscopy (PLM). From the clinical imaging methods, we will focus conventional radiography (X-ray) and the potential of advanced image analysis and deep learning algorithms to mine new diagnostic information from them. Finally, the future prospects of clinical prediction models, combining imaging data and clinical information, will be discussed.


Peter Torzilli

Dr. Peter Torzilli is currently a Senior Scientist in the Orthopaedic Soft Tissue Research Program at the Hospital for Special Surgery, Professor of Applied Biomechanics in the Orthopaedic Department at the Weill Cornell Medical College, and Grant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the City College School of Engineering in New York City, USA. He received his undergraduate engineering degree in Engineering Science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an engineering masters and doctoral degrees in Mechanics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. For over 40 years he has been performing research and teaching in the areas of the biomechanics and mechanobiology of soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system in health and disease. Past research was related to the aging and post-traumatic initiation and progression of osteoarthritis, and the biomechanics of the human knee, shoulder and elbow joints. His current areas of research are focused on the mechanobiology and tissue engineering of articular cartilage, enzyme mechanokinetics of collagen degradation, and mechanical, immunological and biological pathological mechanisms and relationships common to both late-stage osteoarthritis and soft tissue tumor metastasis.


Articular cartilage is a multi-phase biological tissue with unique material, mechanical and functional properties.  During cyclic joint movement mechanical forces act to exude  and imbibe interstitial fluid across the opposing surfaces for almost frictionless motion while also transporting nutrients and waste produces through the extracellular matric to and from the chondrocytes.  To characterize articular cartilage’s biomechanical and mechanobiological responses to joint loading, experimental and theoretical models have been developed at multi-scale levels.  These models will be reviewed and used to help explain the tissue’s physiological function in health and disease states.


Sam Veres

Sam Veres studies structure-function relationships in collagenous tissues with the goal of understanding the development and maintenance of physiologic performance in healthy tissue, and the interplay between disruption or alteration to tissue structure and disease. Investigations are often multiscale in nature, extending through the collagen hierarchy from macro to nanoscale. In relation to pathology, key areas of focus have included overload strain injury and repetitive overuse injury in tendon, and development of annular tears and herniation in intervertebral discs. Sam earned a Bachelor of Engineering (mechanical) from Dalhousie University, Canada, and a PhD in Chemical and Materials Engineering from the University of Auckland, where he studied under the supervision of Dr. Neil Broom. This was followed by a Killam post-doctoral fellowship at Dalhousie University’s School of Biomedical Engineering working with Dr. Michael Lee. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Division of Engineering at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada.


Collagenous tissues are hierarchically structured, making it possible to control mechanical response via structural alterations at multiple length scales. Having seven to eight levels of structural hierarchy but arguably the simplest collagen architecture, tendons are useful for investigating how tissue structure is controlled in order to achieve function. While some tendons function as springs to help power locomotion by storing and releasing strain energy, others function to position limbs under minimal load. This talk will introduce some of the experimental methods that have been used to explore the differing structures of “energy storing” versus “positional” tendons, and discuss how variations at the micro and nanoscales result in differences in load-bearing ability and mechanical response.


Tim Woodfield

Associate Professor Woodfield leads the Christchurch Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering (CReaTE) Group in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Centre for Bioengineering & Nanomedicine at the University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand.

His CReaTE group is investigating stem cell and biomaterial-based strategies for musculoskeletal tissue regeneration and their application in the clinical translation of orthopaedic medical devices & cell-based therapies. His research technology platform involves 3D Bioprinting and additive manufacturing of biomaterial scaffolds/devices applied to regenerative medicine of cartilage and bone, including bio-ink development, advanced 3D tissue culture models and high throughput screening.

Tim was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship by the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2012 focussing on Regenerative Medicine of cartilage and bone, and is a Principal Investigator within the New Zealand Medical Technology Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE). He also holds an adjunct Associate Professor position at the Institute of Health & Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

Tim has published 49 articles in peer reviewed international journals and book chapters. He has attracted over NZ$19.3 million in competitive research funding as a PI or co-PI from Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment, Royal Society of New Zealand, Health Research Council, MedTech CoRE, and acts as coordinator of the European Commission skelGEN consortia project.

He is the outgoing President of the Australasian Society for Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering (ASBTE) having served as President, Executive Officer and Executive Committee member roles since 2008. He is Secretary and Executive Board member of the International Society for Biofabrication. He sits on the editorial board for the journals Biofabrication, Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering, and Frontiers in Bioengineering & Biotechnology.

Rami Korhonen

Dr. Korhonen received his MSc degree in medical physics in 2000 and his PhD degree in physics in 2004 from the University of Kuopio, Finland. Then he joined Prof. Walter Herzog’s group in the University of Calgary, Canada, and did the post doc period from 2005 to 2007. After returning to Finland, Dr. Korhonen was granted the Academy Research Fellow post in 2008. In 2013, Dr. Korhonen was nominated for the Associate Professor position of biomechanics in the University of Eastern Finland and was later promoted for the full professorship in 2016. He is now a co-head of the Biophysics of Bone and Cartilage group and the Musculoskeletal Disorders research area of the University. Dr. Korhonen has published 114 peer-reviewed articles and supervised 15 PhD theses. During last 5 years, the total amount of grants of Dr. Korhonen has been about 3M€.



During last 10 years, Dr. Korhonen and his group have mainly focused on development of multiscale computational methods to evaluate biomechanical responses of articular cartilage and chondrocytes. This is complemented by multiscale biomechanical tests and imaging to support the model development and improve understanding of biomechanical factors in cartilage mechanobiology. In this seminar, Dr. Korhonen will present several applications of multiscale imaging, biomechanical testing and computational modeling in the analysis of cell, cartilage and joint responses. He will also present recent advancements in modeling of cartilage adaptation to abnormal loading and diffusion of inflammatory cytokines, altering aggrecan and collagen content. These methods may provide pathways for more accurate prediction of the disease progression and allow estimation of the effect of interventions.

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