Nicole Mc Pherson

Ms Nicole Mc Pherson

NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD (as Co-Supervisor) - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Dr Nicole McPherson is an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow and runs the Sperm and Embryo Biology Research Group at the Robinson Research Institute and the Freemasons Centre for Men's Health at the University of Adelaide. Dr McPherson works in close affiliation with the Monash IVF group to ensure her research stays translatable. Our groups main research interests include;

  • Lifestyle and environmental factors of male fertility
  • Paternal Programming of Childrens Health
  • Clinical Andrology
  • Sperm/egg Interactions and associated early embryo development
  • Endangered Species Conservation


HONOURS PROJECTS (for Semester 2, 2019 and Semester 1, 2020 Start)

1) Determining clinical applicable testing of reproductive reactive oxygen species in men undergoing assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

Supervisors: Dr Nicole McPherson and Professor Michelle Lane

While current WHO testing of sperm function (count, motility and morphology) can predict if a couple will be able to conceive in a natural setting, these provide no indication for pregnancy outcomes in patients undergoing ART. Sperm reactive oxygen species and nitric oxygen species are increased in sub-fertile patients and have been associated with poorer outcomes following ART. This project will look at different methods of ROS and nitric oxygen testing of reproductive materials from males (sperm, seminal plasma and excess media) and relate it back to pregnancy outcomes, to come up with a clinical test to be used for ART.

Location: Repromed and Level 5, AHMS


2) Improving ICSI outcomes via sperm

Supervisors: Dr Nicole McPherson, Dr Leanne Pacella-Ince, Dr Deirdre Zander-Fox and Professor Michelle Lane

Intra-cytoplasmic sperm (ICSI) is the most commonly performed ART technology with more than 85% of patients undergoing artificial insemination utilizing this technology. Although, now a routine part of ART treatment, studies have demonstrated that children born from ICSI have an increased risk for congenital birth defects compared to those conceived from natural conception. Before sperm has the capacity to fertilize and conceive a healthy embryo and fetus, it must first undergo post ejaculation maturation (capacitation and hyperactivation) which occurs in the female reproductive tract. However, current ICSI sperm preparation protocols completely ignore this post ejaculation sperm maturation step. In this project, we will utilise a clinical mouse model of ICSI to induce post ejaculation sperm maturation in vitro and determine outcomes to embryos and fetuses.   

Location: Level 5, AHMS


3) Understanding how increased reactive oxygen species of sperm contributes to early embryo and fetal loss

Supervisor: Dr Nicole McPherson and Professor Michelle Lane

An imbalance in ROS towards oxidative stress in sperm occurs in many male pathologies (male obesity, smoking, aging, chemical exposure and subfertility) all of which have been shown to increase offspring susceptibility to disease in both animal models and humans. However, we and others have shown that although mitochondria superoxide is mildly elevated in sperm, it does not appear to be the main source of ROS in sperm. One of the primary hypothesis for how sperm acquirer increased ROS is via either through the depletion of their own antioxidant protection, making them reliant on the antioxidant protection of the male reproductive tract, or exposure to excessive intrinsic or extrinsic ROS production. In this project we will activate individual ROS species in mature sperm (O2, H2O2, O- , OH- and nitric oxide) and assess how this influences early embryo development. 

Location: Level 5, AHMS 


4) How does glucose dysregulation effect sperm function and early embryo development

Supervisor: Dr Nicole McPherson

Worldwide we are currently experiencing a 0.70million/ml yearly decline in sperm count with some countries experiencing up to a 72.6% decrease in sperm count in the past 50 years. Interestingly, we do not see a similar decline in sperm count in livestock, suggesting that current lifestyles and environmental impacts are causing the decreases in sperm quality seen in men. In conjunction to this worldwide decline in sperm count, we are also currently facing an epidemic of metabolic disorders encapsulating obesity and type II diabetes. One of the prime hallmark of metabolic syndrome is an increase in systemic glucose. We have shown that increased glucose caused from male obesity is directly associated with poor sperm function and fetal health irrespective to fat mass. In this project we will look at how altering extracellular glucose levels in vitro influence sperm function and early embryo health.   

Location: Level 5, AHMS and Repromed



Determining if sperm methylation status is associated with obesity and IVF outcomes (human).

Recent evidence has shown that male’s health prior to conception (i.e. obesity) can influence the health of the subsequent pregnancy and child. This project will look at sperm methylation status of human sperm (5mC, 5HmC, 5faC and 5caC) and how levels related to early embryo development, pregnancy rates and male obesity.  

Location: Level 5, AHMS


External Supervisors

  • Dr Leanne Pacella-Ince is the Deputy Scientific Director at Repromed
  • Dr Deirdre Zander-Fox is the Regional Scientific Director of the Monash IVF Group
  • Professor Michelle Lane is the Director of Science and Innovation of the Monash IVF Group


  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2015 NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow (Peter Doherty) University of Adelaide
    2014 - 2014 Post-Doctoral Research Officer University of Adelaide
    2011 Andrologist Repromed
    2009 - 2011 Research Assistant Universty of Adelaide
    2007 - 2009 Clinical Scientist Ashford Hospital
    2007 - 2007 Technical Assistant University of Adelaide
    2006 - 2007 Technical Assistant Ashford Hospital
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2014 Award Best Oral Presentation International Conference of Spermatology
    2014 Recognition David Healy New Investigator Award Annual Society for Reproductive Biology Australia
    2013 Award Student Poster Prize, Robinson Institute Research Day Robinson Research Institute Australia 500
    2013 Recognition New Investigator Award finalist Annual Society for Reproductive Biology Australia
    2012 Award Paediatrics and Reproductive Health Student Poster Prize Post Graduate Research Day, University of Adelaide Australia 500
    2011 Award Prize paper Annual American Society for Reproductive Biology Australia
    2011 Recognition Oozoa Student Award finalist Annual Society for Reproductive Biology Australia
    2010 Recognition Honours Oral Award finalist Annual Australian Society of Medical Research Australia
    2010 Recognition Student Poster Prize A Healthy Start to Life, 2nd Nutritional Genomics Symposium Australia
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2011 - 2014 University of Adelaide Australia PhD (Deans Commendation)
    2009 - 2010 University of Adelaide Australia First Class Honours in Health Science
    2005 - 2007 University of Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Health Science
Date Project/ No. Funding Body Amount
2015 - 2019

Sperm methylation status predicts embryo and pregnancy outcomes in male obesity (AA1088964)

NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship (Peter Doherty) $309,436
2017 'GIRRTH' improve IVF/ICSI outcomes in obese men Monash IVF MREF $29,980
2016 Acrosome reacted sperm - a novel way to improve ICSI technology Monash IVF MREF $29,833
2014 Male obesity changes the methylome of sperm and impairs pregnancy outcomes in humans CIA - Robinson Research Institute Innovation Seed Funding Program $20,000

Human sperm microRNAs are dyregulated by obesity and are potentially biomarkers for ART outcomes

CIC – Robinson Research Institute innovation Seed Funding Program $25,000
Date Course Title Institution
2014 Complex Midwifery and Family Centred Care lecture, ‘Interpreting a semen analysis and lifestyle factors of male sub- fertility’ Repromed
2014 - current CRBM lecture, ‘Clinical Andrology’ and ‘Lifestyle Factors and Male Fertility’ University of Adelaide
2014 HDR III workshop, ‘ART and New Technology University of Adelaide
2013 - current HDR III lecture and workshop, ‘Lifestyle Factors and Male Fertility’ University of Adelaide
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2014 - ongoing Member International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
    2011 - ongoing Member Freemason's Centre for Men's Health
    2010 - ongoing Member Australian Society for Medical Research
    2010 - ongoing Member Robinson Research Institute
    2009 - ongoing Member Society for Reproductive Biology
    2009 - ongoing Member Fertility Society of Australia
    2009 - ongoing Member Scientists in Reproductive Technology
    2009 - ongoing Member Research Centre for Reproductive Health
  • Position: NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow
  • Phone: 83138201
  • Email:
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences, floor 5
  • Room: WS5050.15
  • Org Unit: Paediatrics and Reproductive Health

Connect With Me
External Profiles