Philipp J. Thurner

About me

While studying physics at TU Graz and one semester of materials science I developed an interest in biomaterials and biological tissues. I took on a PhD project in this area, focusing on 3D imaging of biomaterials, cell-seeded scaffolds and bone under load. We were the first to observe the formation of microscopic cracks and damage in bone using X-ray computed tomography. The question of how damage forms in bone has captivated me ever since, an in a broader sense the relationships between structure and mechanical function, not only of bone, but of any tissue. After receiving my PhD from ETH Zürich my PostDoc-years were focused on the role of noncollagneous proteins in bone and their role in bone mechanics. I had the opportunity to work with Prof. Paul Hansma at UC Santa Barbara and Prof. Tamara Alliston at UC San Francisco, before taking on a lectureship (Assistant Professor) at the University of Southampton. There we were continuing research on bone and slowly transitioning our work also to soft tissues and prominently to collagen. After promotion to Reader (Associate Professor) and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, I accepted a call from TU Wien in 2013 as Professor of Biomechanics.


My research interests are focused on experimental tissue biomechanics from the macro- to the molecular scale. One focus is set on the micro- and nanomechanics of collagen and collagen-rich soft tissues employing atomic force microscopy (AFM) in combination with optical microscopy as well as developing custom micro- and nanomechanical testing equipment. Being able to work on samples originating from biopsies or 3D cell cultures allows us to provide quantitative data related to physiological and pathological mechanobiological processes. Another focus is set on the micro-mechanics of trabecular and cortical bone to provide better understanding of bone mechanics at the material level. Our research can only be achieved by developing our own instruments and protocols as there are no/few of the shelf solutions for micro- and nanomechanical characterization of tissues.

Experimental Biomechanics:

Collagen fibril mechanics, micromechanics of collagen-rich soft tissues, micro- and nanomechanics of bone, noncollagenous proteins, structure-function relationships

Clinical Biomechanics:

Effects of fibrosis on tissue micro- and nanomechanics, osteoporosis, bone fracture risk diagnosis


Development of instruments for micro- and nanomechanical characterization of biological tissues