Michael Stark

Associate Professor Michael Stark

Associate Professor

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Associate Professor Michael Stark - Women's and Children's Hospital.

As a Research Group Leader of the Neonatal Medicine Group of the Robinson Institute and as through on-going collaboration with the Pregnancy and Development Research Group within the Robinson Institute, Dr Stark's research is centred on how patho-physiologic pregnancy impacts upon placental function and fetal growth and development, with a particular interest in the physiological mechanisms contributing to the excess of male morbidity and mortality observed at the extremes of prematurity.

The current focus of this research is the placental response to inflammation, its contribution to the development of oxygen radical diseases of the newborn, including chronic lung disease and acquired neonatal brain injury, and the potential for new, novel sex specific interventions aimed at modifying these pathological processes.

Clinical studies include the development of improved predictive tools for early acquired brain injury in very preterm infants and developement of novel transfusion strategies, in conjunction with the Australian Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, to minimise the risk of transfusion related immunomodulation during the neonatal period.

Neonatal Medicine, Developmental Physiology, Early Origins of Health

A/Prof Stark leads the Neonatal Medicine Research group within the RRI and is the Clinical Theme Leader (Early Origins of Health). The Neonatal Medicine Research Group conducts clinical studies focusing on the health of preterm newborns. These studies include NHMRC and MRFF funded multi-centre randomised trials and prospective cohort trials. Particular areas of interest include oxygen physiology with a focus on perinatal brain injury, transfusion medicine, and the immunological basis for preterm lung disease. The projects will involve students becoming active members of the research team within the neonatal intensive care nursery in addition to laboratory based studies with a strong clinical and translational focus. This is a multi-disciplinary team which currently comprises Honours, PhD and clinical researchers.   

Projects available:

Research Project 1

Title: Re-evaluating lifelong lung disease in very preterm newborns: A way forward. 

Project description: A significant majority of very preterm babies either die or survive with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a broad clinical condition of persistent airway and airspace inflammation with abnormal healing and disordered lung development. Despite substantial resource allocation, it remains the most frequent morbidity for infants discharged home after very preterm birth with lifelong consequences on lung health and neurodevelopmental outcome.  This prospective study will characterise the profile of immune cell populations and important biomarkers in the airway and bloodstream of ventilated preterms, using modern analysis techniques (multiplex ELISA, flow cytometry), in order to update and reclassify the sequential changes in airway and airspace inflammation and relate them to known clinical phenotypic variation in the individual preterm baby.

Projects available for: Honours
Location: AHMS (Adelaide Health & Medical Sciences Building, North Tce); Women’s & Children’s Hospital; The Robinson Research institute, Norwich Building.
Research project start: Semester 1 and 2
Special requirements: N/A


Research Project 2

Title: Defining a safe operating reference range for brain oxygen in very preterm babies at risk of brain injury: An exploratory study

Project description: Preterm babies are particularly vulnerable to brain injury which is a recognised lifelong complication for babies born prematurely. Although this injury is likely to be multifactorial in origin, abnormalities of oxygen handling are known to be important with injury related to variance in either direction. Both low and high brain oxygen content can cause oxidative stress and injury. Hypoxia, or low blood oxygen, results in brain damage from cellular injury and death whereas, hyperoxia, or high brain oxygen content, results in oxygen free radical production with damage to DNA.

Unfortunately, death and impairment from brain damage remain common outcomes for the very preterm babies despite significant resources. Managing oxygen is critically important with current systems failing to adequately measure overall oxygen status. This study will develop a simple, non-invasive method for measuring oxygen levels that is consistent with physiology but also works within the context of current clinical care.

Projects available for: 3rd Year Project; Honours; HDR
Location: The Robinson Research Institute, Norwich Building; Women’s & Children’s Hospital
Research project start: Semester 1 and 2
Special requirements: Police Clearance


  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2022 Principal Supervisor Endocrine and Vascular changes in children with Sleep Disordered Breathing Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Amelia Namrata Noone
    2021 Principal Supervisor Evaluating the impact of maternal asthma on neonatal and childhood lung function and its underlying mechanisms Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Joshua Luke Robinson
    2018 Principal Supervisor Neuroprotection in Neonatal Encephalopathy - extending our understanding beyond cooling in the NICU Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Miss Kathryn Anne Martinello
    2017 Co-Supervisor Parent Education for Developmental Literacy (PEDaL): A novel neonatal nursery parent education program Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mrs Megan Louise Bater
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2018 - 2021 Co-Supervisor HMGB1- An Immunotherapeutic Target for the Treatment of Neonatal Sepsis and Associated Neuroinflammation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Nerissa Lakhan
    2016 - 2019 Co-Supervisor GBS STUDY: Assessing Disease Burden and Risk Factors for Neonatal Group B Streptococcal Infection to Inform the Best Strategies to Prevent Life Threatening Infections in Newborns Master of Philosophy (Clinical Science) Master Full Time Dr Marianne Yanni
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2016 - ongoing Associate Editor Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health Australia
    2013 - ongoing Associate Editor Placenta

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