Dr. Tom Oxland

Principal Investigator

B.A.Sc. (University of Waterloo), M.A.Sc. (Yale University), M.Phil. (Yale University), Ph.D. (Yale University)
Canada Research Chair, Spine Biomechanics
Professor, Departments of Orthopaedics and Mechanical Engineering, University of British Columbia
Associate Director, Discovery Science, ICORD
Associate Head – Research, Department of Orthopaedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Research Interests

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Dr. Oxland is interested in the biomechanics of musculoskeletal problems and particularly in the physical aspects of injuries to the spinal cord. He is presently studying the mechanisms of spinal cord injury, developing more information about how different types of injuries can lead to different types of spinal cord damage. If the mechanism of injury is found to be important, then treatments could be tailored to specific injuries, allowing for a more focused approach and potentially improving the treatment outcomes for the patient.

Dr. Oxland is also exploring the challenges in the surgical treatment of adult spinal deformity.

For Dr. Oxland, the biggest advantage offered by ICORD is the appeal of a common focus, one that encourages and supports the interdisciplinary nature of the work itself. SCI is a very large issue which requires both collaboration and interdisciplinary research to be overcome.

Recent Collaborations:

Dr. Oxland co-directs the Orthopaedic and Injury Biomechanics Group at ICORD with Dr. Peter Cripton and they collaborate extensively.  He also has a very fruitful collaboration with Drs. Wolfram Tetzlaff, Piotr Kozlowski, and Brian Kwon on SCI research.Dr. Oxland has been collaborating with spinal surgeons at Vancouver General Hospital and the University of British Columbia for more than a decade, working with Drs. Marcel Dvorak, and Charles Fisher (Department of Orthopaedics, University of British Columbia) on improving surgical implants and devices, and examining details and devices that don’t work perfectly, to make improvements.He has also collaborated with many other surgeons from the Department of Orthopaedics, mostly recently Drs. Alastair Younger, Bassam Masri, Clive Duncan, and Pierre Guy.

Major Findings:

In late 1997, Dr. Oxland’s group focused on issues related to getting implants to attach in patients whose bones were less robust. The first study focused on the strength of the end part of a vertebra, and it demonstrated that many current implant designs and surgical strategies were not appropriate. The line of research was later applied to spinal fixation, fixation to fragile osteoporotic bones, and specific types of hip reconstruction. The full effects of these studies have not been realized, but they are expected to affect clinical practice.

At the University of British Columbia, the group is at the forefront of the biomechanics of spinal cord injury and has developed a unique model for the creation of SCI in a model. The innovation lies in the high-speed nature of the model, and its ability to create a range of clinically relevant causes and mechanisms of spinal cord injury.

The lab has also been amongst the first to model SCI numerically, which is an important tool for the design of future preventive devices. In doing so, Dr. Oxland’s group continues to characterize SCI from a biomechanical perspective and is among the top teams in the world on this topic.

For more of Dr. Oxland’s major findings, please see the selected publications below, as well as his recent publications listed at the bottom of the page:

Techniques employed in the lab:

  • Computational modelling using Finite-Element techniques (FET)
  • Examining the mechanisms of SCI using custom models
  • Mechanical testing of musculoskeletal tissues and constructs, using Instron materials-testing machines and custom apparatus, and other biomechanical testing

Affiliation with organizations and societies:

  • International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine (ISSLS)
  • Orthopaedic Injury Biomechanics Group (OIBG), University of British Columbia
  • Orthopaedics, Faculty of Medicine & Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science, University of British Columbia


Some of Dr. Oxland’s recent major awards and accomplishments include:

  • Keynote speaker (17th Annual Alberta Biomedical Engineering Conference, 2016)
  • 2nd Vice-President (International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine, 2016)
  • Humboldt Research Award (Alexander Humboldt Foundation, 2012)
  • Canada Research Chair, Tier 2 in Biomedical Engineering (2001-2011)
  • Fellow (Canadian Association of Engineers, 2011)

Trainee Awards

Year Name Award
2021 Masoud Malakoutian Dean’s Best Thesis Award, UBC Faculty of Applied Science
2020 Justin Yu 1st place in the Masters-level Student Paper Competition in the Biomechanics category (Summer Bioengineering Conference)

Lab Members

Ph.D. Students Postdoctoral Fellows Research Engineers
Iraj Dehghan-Hamani Dr. Benjamin Dourthe Luis Dias
Nima Ashjaee Dr. Jeff Barrett Alex Burden

*has graduated in the past year

Current opportunities in the Lab

There are currently no openings in Dr. Oxland’s lab. Please contact Dr. Oxland with inquiries.

Recent publications

  • Malakoutian, M et al.. 2022. Dysfunctional paraspinal muscles in adult spinal deformity patients lead to increased spinal loading.. Eur Spine J. doi: 10.1007/s00586-022-07292-x.
  • Malakoutian, M et al.. 2022. Biomechanical Properties of Paraspinal Muscles Influence Spinal Loading-A Musculoskeletal Simulation Study.. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2022.852201.
  • Noonan, AM, Oxland, TR, Brown, SHM. 2022. Investigating the active contractile function of the rat paraspinal muscles reveals unique cross-bridge kinetics in the multifidus.. Eur Spine J. doi: 10.1007/s00586-022-07120-2.
  • Yamamoto, S et al.. 2022. The diagnostic precision of computed tomography for traumatic cervical spine injury: An in vitro biomechanical investigation.. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2021.105529.
  • Dourthe, B et al.. 2022. Automated Segmentation of Spinal Muscles From Upright Open MRI Using a Multiscale Pyramid 2D Convolutional Neural Network.. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000004308.
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