Research Themes

Research Fellows

Research Themes

The SpineFX ITN addresses the three most prevalent and costly causes of vertebral fracture: (a) Spinal Metastases, (b) Osteoporosis and (c) Spinal Trauma, as three vertical themes (see figure below). Research will be delivered in a series of nine interconnected work packages (WPs) in a truly 'bench to bedside and beyond' approach through the horizontal phases of:

  • (1) Basic research,
  • (2) Oriented research, and
  • (3) Applied research.

The early stage researchers (ESRs) and experienced researchers (ERs) involved in the work packages (outlined in the figure below) have a home institution together with truly multidisciplinary, international collaborations through integration with industrial participants, clinical partners and academic institutions. The ERs based at the industrial partners provide a key mechanism for the exploitation of the research generated by ESRs.


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Research Fellows

Early Stage Researchers (ESRs)

Experienced Researchers (ERs)

Hadi Hosseini Pavel Galibarov
Ondrej Holub Argiris Kasioptas
Miklós Ivicsics Bartosz Nowak
Giacomo Marini
Ghislain Maquer
Ilsoo Koh
Antony Bou Francis
Rebecca Kueny
Nicola Brandolini
Olga Krupková
Allison Clouthier
Jean-Philippe Berteau
Reza Danyali

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Hadi S. Hosseini, University of Bernhadi_hosseini

Hadi was born in Gonbadekavoos, Iran. In 1997, he moved to Tehran to start his undergraduate study at Iran University of Science & Technology (IUST) in the field of Materials Engineering (Industrial Metallurgy). During his undergraduate years, he acquired a good background in the fundamentals of basic materials engineering with a focus on Thermodynamics, Heat Treatment, Metal Forming, Casting, and Material Strength. After receiving his bachelor's degree and completing military service, he worked as a research engineer in an automobile-related industry in Tehran for one year. In 2006, Hadi moved to Germany, where he continued his graduate study and attained an MSc in the Computational Mechanics of Materials and Structures from the University of Stuttgart.

In January 2010, his interest in Computational Biomechanics led Hadi to Vienna, Austria, to start his doctorate under the supervision of Prof. Philippe K. Zysset at the Institute of Lightweight Design and Structural Biomechanics (ILSB), Technical University of Vienna. There, he had the opportunity to become part of the SpineFX ITN as an ESR and started in-depth research into finite element modelling of bone mechanics and trabecular bone damage as part of WP1. The outcome of his work package aims at developing and validating novel simulation tools for predicting damage localisation of the vertebral body for a wide range of compressive loading. In January 2012, Hadi moved to Switzerland, together with his supervisor, to continue his PhD at the Institute for Surgical Technology & Biomechanics (ISTB), University of Bern.

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Ondrej Holub, University of Leedsondrej_holub

Ondrej was born in Prague, Czech Republic. He graduated in Mechanical Engineering with a specialisation in Biomechanics from the Czech Technical University in 2008. During his undergraduate studies he spent an academic year at the Superior Institute of Engineers at the University of Franche-Compté in France. After completing his MSc in biomechanics of the spine, in 2009, he took up an internship at the Laboratory of Biomechanics of ENSAM, Paris, where he worked on 3D kinematic analysis of the cervical spine.

Ondrej joined the SpineFX ITN as an ESR when he began his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Richard Hall at the University of Leeds in May 2010. His research within WP2 concerns the biomechanics of spines affected by cancer metastases, the relationship with fracture prediction and improving the mechanical properties of the spine using augmentation techniques.

Ondrej says he is fully enjoying his stay in Leeds, where with the help of the University he has had no difficulties in settling in. After meeting some of the other SpineFX researchers during the first ITN workshop 'Research Management Skills for the Biomedical Engineer’, held in Leeds in July 2010, he says he feels excited to be part of this scientific community.

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Miklós Ivicsics, Technical University of Hamburg-Harburgmiklos_ivicsics

Miklós was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary. As a mechanical engineering undergraduate at the Technical University of Budapest, he investigated one-phase fluid flow in a cyclone separator, including measurements and Computational Fluid Dynamics calculations. After completing his diploma thesis, he worked for two years in the automotive industry at the AVL group, where he researched engine development.

He joined the SpineFX ITN as an ESR when he began his doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr Gerd Huber at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg, Germany, in August 2010. He says he is greatly enjoying working on WP3, which focuses on load sharing in the lumbar spine, because it combines clinically relevant biomechanical problems with various areas of mechanical engineering, for instance construction, programming, and finite element analysis. His research centres on degenerative forces on the facet joints, which are considered to be one of the main sources of lower back pain.

Miklós says that the SpineFX ITN is an excellent opportunity for building network connections, getting to know interesting people, and sharing ideas. In his spare time he cycles around Hamburg, reads books, and visits exhibitions and concerts. Miklós is very grateful for this opportunity and is proud to be a part of SpineFX.

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Giacomo Marini, ETH Zürich


Giacomo was born in Florence, Italy. In December 2009, he graduated with honors in Biomedical Engineering with a specialisation in Biomechanics from the Polytechnic of Turin, Italy. During his studies, he spent three months at the Center for Research in Microengineering at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy, where he worked on a miniaturised force sensor for minimally invasive surgery. Then, as an Erasmus exchange student at the Numerical Mechanics Department of the Technical University of Munich, Germany, as part of his master's degree, he worked on the numerical modelling of the rupture process in abdominal aortic aneurysms using a large deformation approach.

During his six months in Munich, Giacomo developed a profound interest in the application of computational methods in biomechanics, and decided to increase his knowledge of the field by joining the SpineFX ITN in March 2010 as an ESR at the University of Bern under the supervision of Prof. Stephen Ferguson and Prof. Edoardo Mazza (ETH Zürich). His research within WP4 concerns the behaviour of the intervertebral disc to impact loadings with modelling of the structural and biological disc response. In September 2011, he moved to the Institute for Biomechanics at ETH Zürich to continue his PhD under Prof. Ferguson.

In his spare time, Giacomo enjoys Latin dance, baking, reading, and photography.

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Ghislain Maquer, University of Bernghislain_maquer

Ghislain was born in Lens in northern France. Having successfully passed the national entrance examination, he continued his education at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Physique de Strasbourg (ENSPS), now known as Télécom Physique Strasbourg, and in parallel followed an additional master’s course at Strasbourg Universty. His interest in the finite element modelling of living tissues led Ghislain to complete his master's thesis at the Functional Development Shaving Department of Philips in Drachten, the Netherlands. His thesis focused on the development of a realistic FE model of the human skin with little computation time used to simulate an extra elevation of the hair during manipulation of the skin. He graduated in Biomedical Engineering (Dipl. Ing.) and image processing, medical and surgical robotics (MSc) in 2009.

In 2008, Ghislain completed an internship at the ILSB, TU of Vienna, where he would later start his doctoral studies in January 2010 and become part of SpineFX as an ESR. His research within WP6 focuses on the role of intervertebral discs in the load transfer to the human vertebra. Thanks to this knowledge, a new diagnostic tool using CT-scan based FE models is being developed to improve the fracture prediction of lumbar vertebrae. In October 2011, Ghislain moved to Switzerland together with his supervisor, Prof. Philippe Zysset, to continue his PhD at the Institute for Surgical Technology & Biomechanics (ISTB), University of Bern.

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Ilsoo Koh, ETH Zürichilsoo_koh

Ilsoo was born in Seoul, South Korea. She moved to New Zealand with her family when she was very young and spent 16 years in Auckland. There, she completed her bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Auckland. After graduation, she worked at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute as a part-time research assistant for two years to develop a protocol for testing trabecular bones in multiaxial directions. She extended her research assistantship project to complete a master’s thesis focused on finding a relationship between clinical CT numbers and multiaxial stiffness of trabecular bone originating from human knee bones. Upon completion of her master's program, she moved to Switzerland in November 2010 to start work as an ESR as part of the SpineFX ITN. 

The focus of her current research in WP7 is to identify an ideal distribution for new ceramic cements developed by BoneSupport. She is interested in the application of the cement in osteoporotic and metastatic fractures to identify the positioning of the cement so that the augmented vertebrae can have similar strength and stiffness to intact vertebrae. She will also perform investigations in trauma-fractured vertebrae to identify the potential outgrowth of vertebroplasty into a new field of clinical application.

She is enjoying the beauty of Switzerland and its cuisine, including cheese fondue. She spends most of her spare times in the Alps either hiking or snowboarding. She also likes to read and to travel to other major European cities whenever time allows her.

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Antony Bou Francis, University of LeedsAFrancis2

Antony was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. After finishing high school, he moved to Nova Scotia, Canada to study at Dalhousie University. In 2006, he graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering and started work at the IWK Health Centre as a research engineer leading a project involving mapping the pressure distribution of spinal deformity patients on different OR beds. In 2007, he joined the School of Biomedical Engineering and started a two-year MSc program. His thesis focused on developing a standardised radiostereometric analysis (RSA) bead placement protocol for studying thoracic spinal fusion in scoliosis patients.

In October 2010, confused as to whether he should stay in Canada or move back to Lebanon, Antony ended up in the UK at the University of Leeds, where he joined the SpineFX ITN as an ESR in Spinal Biomechanics. He was also offered and happily accepted the opportunity to register for a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Richard Hall and Dr Nik Kapur. His project (WP8) focuses on the experimental assessment of novel bone cements and delivery systems using reproducible and pathologically representative bone surrogate models. The goal of his project is to better understand how cement flows within trabecular bone and address issues of cement placement following vertebral augmentation.

In his recreation time, Antony enjoys going to the gym, playing football, snowboarding, swimming, listening to music, traveling and exploring. Antony is grateful to the ITN for giving him the opportunity to visit other laboratories, attend workshops and collaborate with other researchers and industrial partners.

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Rebecca Kueny, Technical University of Hamburg-Harburgrebecca_kueny

Rebecca was born and raised in the middle of the United States. After receiving her high school diploma in Boonville, MO, USA she went on to receive her BS in Ceramic Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, MO). While at Rolla, she participated in research on novel types of bioactive glasses for their use as a scaffold or as a coating for titanium implants. In 2009, Rebecca obtained her MSc in Biomedical Engineering while studying at the University of Oxford. At Oxford she completed a FEA study on the effects of notching during hip resurfacing. She spent one year at Pfeiffer Engineering where she took part in studies to test the fixation of pedicle screws in osteoporotic vertebrae. 

In October 2010, Rebecca joined the SpineFX ITN as an ESR. She is currently a research assistant at the Institute of Biomechanics at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg where she is pursuing a PhD under the supervision of Dr Gerd Huber and Prof. Dr Michael Morlock. Her research topics within WP9 include investigating the relationship of the fixation of pedicle screws in vertebra with both surgical parameters and pedicle screw design. She is also interested in the possible effects of vertebroplasty on the adjacent spinal segments.

Rebecca has always pursued her interest in sports. While at Rolla, she participated in basketball, track and field, and softball at the NCAA Division II level. Then at Oxford, she earned Blues in basketball and athletics, as well as dabbling in rowing for her college St Edmund Hall (more affectionately known as Teddy Hall). She continues her sports obsession in Hamburg by playing basketball for the Harburg Baskets.

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Nicola Brandolini, University of Leedsnicola_brandolini

Nicola was born in Faenza, Italy. He graduated from the University of Bologna with a BSc and MSc in Biomedical Engineering (2010). During his master’s degree, he specialised in biomechanics and artificial organs. His thesis was based at the Laboratory of Medical Technology (Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute, Bologna, Italy) under the supervision of Prof. Luca Cristofolini and focused on the structural characterisation of the human lumbar vertebral body. Upon completion of his thesis, he joined the same laboratory as a research associate within the EU-funded Osteoporotic Virtual Physiological Human (VPHOP) project. During this period, he carried on the research activity he started during his thesis performing in vitro mechanical tests on human cadaveric spine specimens.

He joined the SpineFX ITN in September 2011 and is based at the University of Leeds as a Marie Curie ESR. Although he was initially enrolled on a two-year contract, he was offered and accepted the opportunity of attending a full time PhD studentship under the supervision of Prof. Richard Hall and Dr Nik Kapur. His research activity within WPs 2 and 8 focuses on the biomechanics of the metastatic infiltrated spine. In particular, he is investigating the in vitro mechanical behaviour of the spine following vertebroplasty.

Nicola moved from Italy with his girlfriend and they are both really enjoying their first experience of living in a foreign country. In his spare time, he loves travelling across Yorkshire and enjoying its wonderful countryside and landscapes.

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Olga Krupková, ETH Züricholga_krupkova

Olga was born in Brno, Czech Republic. She completed her master's degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University in Brno. In September 2010, she started a PhD in the Laboratory of Cancer Biology at the Faculty of Medicine in Masaryk University, working on pharmacological modulation of intracellular signaling in cancer. She focused on stress signaling in malignant melanoma cells, especially signaling connected to the endoplasmic reticulum stress, stress-response kinases p38 MAPK and JNK, and autophagy in malignant melanoma cells.

On 1st March 2012, she started a one-year training program as a part of the SpineFX ITN. The focus of her current research within the Institute of Biomechanics, ETH Zürich is to study the stress-response signaling in intervertebral disc (IVD) cells after inflammation, starvation and mechanical stress, the modulation of which can lead to the reduction of the degeneration and inflammation process. She will also perform investigations in 3D-cultured IVD cells to identify the potential of natural compounds (e.g. epigallocatechin gallate) in clinical applications.

She likes to spend her free time with friends, hiking, snowboarding, and horse riding, as well as travelling and sightseeing all over the world.

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Allison Clouthier, University of Bernalison_clouthier

Allison is a native of Whitby, Canada. Her academic career began with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mathematics and Engineering at Queen's University. With this degree, Allison studied mechanical engineering while gaining a rigorous foundation in mathematics. For her final year project, Allison investigated energy shaping control laws using the particular example of an inverted pendulum on a cart. During these four years, Allison developed an interest in biomechanics and, therefore, decided to pursue graduate studies in this area. She completed her master's degree in mechanical engineering, also from Queen's University, in 2011. With this work, she designed and developed a mechanical shoulder simulator that enabled her investigation of factors affecting the stability of reverse shoulder arthroplasty, a shoulder implant that reverses the 'ball-and-socket' anatomy of the shoulder.

In March of 2012, Allison had the opportunity to travel to Bern to work as an Early Stage Researcher as a part of the SpineFX framework. Here she is contributing to work on WP1 regarding finite element modelling of trabecular bone mechanics and damage models. As a part of this work, Allison is aiding in stepwise loading experiments that will be used to validate finite element models.

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Jean-Philippe Berteau, Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg

Jean-Philippe recently joined the SpineFX team at TUHH, as a one-year ESR.

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Reza Danyali, Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg

Reza Danyali also recently joined TUHH as a one-year ESR.

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Dr Pavel Galibarov, ABTpavel_galibarov

Pavel Galibarov was born in Syktyvar, Russia. He graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees from St Petersburg State University, Russia, in Mechanical Engineering. For his theses he investigated how to apply finite element methodology to modelling of nanostructures. Pavel also received a master’s degree (IT) from Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland, where he specialised in image processing. Subsequently, Pavel worked as a software engineer in a St Petersburg-based software development company, which produces naval navigational software and electronic charts. In 2005, he decided to pursue a PhD in Bioengineering, spending four years at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Pavel submitted his PhD thesis 'Stochastic failure modelling of total hip replacement' in 2009, and started work in the computational mechanobiology field as a research assistant in the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering.

In May 2010, Pavel joined the SpineFX ITN as an ER based at AnyBody Technology in Aalborg, Denmark. His current research and development activities within WP5 include patient-specific modelling of the lumbar spine, investigation of degenerated spine kinematics, modelling of the lumbar spine using the AnyBody Modelling System (AMS), and development of an interface between AMS and commonly used FE packages (ANSYS, Abaqus). Pavel is very happy to be a part of the SpineFX project and enjoys every minute of work at ABT. He says the project is an excellent opportunity to meet interesting people, while helping to bring spine technologies a step forward, and develop as a professional in the bioengineering field.

In his spare time, Pavel likes to travel across Denmark by bicycle or car with his wife. He also likes to participate in many kinds of sports, Latin dance, learn new languages, read books, and meet new people. Pavel is grateful to the ITN for giving him an opportunity to experience life in Denmark and to widen his horizons.

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Dr Argiris Kasioptas, BoneSupportargiris_kasioptas

Argiris was born in Patras, Greece. He grew up in Volos and returned to his birthplace when he qualified to study chemical engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Patras. There, he had the chance to undertake his diploma thesis on the 'crystallization of hydroxyapatite on polymers PMMA and PHEMA which are used in the fabrication of intraocular lenses for cataract surgery'. This involved carrying out constant composition studies in simulated body fluid solution while training in standard methods used in analytical and inorganic chemistry.

He then carried out his doctoral studies in Münster, Germany, in the Insitut für Mineralogie. There, Argiris investigated the replacement reaction that takes place when phosphate solution comes into contact with calcium carbonates, under hydrothermal conditions, and analysed the reaction product: a hydroxyapatite with morphology identical to that of the starting carbonate material. This reaction has been used to produce bone graft materials with pre-defined structures. Argiris had the opportunity to use state-of-the-art instruments for materials characterisation in his experiments, including SEM, AFM, Raman spectroscopy, XRD and participated in the development of an in-house fluid-cell which allowed novel in-situ analyses with Raman spectroscopy.

Argiris is now enjoying his first R&D position at BONESUPPORT AB, as an ER within the SpineFX ITN. He is very thankful for the opportunity to continue his research activities in the area of spinal biomechanics, an area of indisputable importance. Within WP7, he is currently developing a new injectable bone cement.

In his spare time, Argiris likes to play classical guitar, read books and explore wonderful Sweden.

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Dr Bartosz Nowak, ulrich medicalbartosz_nowak

Bartosz Nowak was born and grew up in Poland. He studied Mechanical Engineering at The University of Technology and Life Sciences in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Simultaneously, he was an exchange student at Padeborn University in Germany. He obtained his PhD from The Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw, Poland in 2009. His PhD thesis, entitled 'Modelling of Dynamics of Bone and Implant Interface. Numerical and Experimental Study', investigated a new method of diagnosing bone and implant integrity based on vibrational techniques. In his research, Bartosz modelled the loosening of bone and implant connection in FEM software Abaqus and its observability with the use of dynamic characteristics (eigenvectors and eigenfrequencies). Bartosz also performed a series of experimental tests with the use of substitute systems of bone and implant interfaces and modal analysis to verify the numerical results and predict possibilities of clinical application. 

Bartosz joined the SpineFX ITN in September 2011 as an ER at ulrich medical in Germany. His current research for WP9 concerns developing and improving the interface of fixation devices (pedicle screws) and vertebrae. To fulfill this aim, he is benefiting from working with ulrich medical, a leading producer and provider of spinal systems and surgical instruments.

In his free time, Bartosz enjoys exploring southern Germany with his family. He attends German dance school, which he says offers excellent opportunities to meet new people and experience German culture.

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