Sean O'Leary

Dr Sean O'Leary

Research Fellow

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

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

My research focuses broadly on the factors that influence pregnancy success leading to healthy outcomes for mothers and babies, and developing reproductive strategies to improve livestock production.

Research Interests:

  • Improving reproductive strategies in livestock species
  • Investigating the role of ovarian factors as predictors of fertility and pregnancy success
  • The role of progesterone during pregnancy and the endocrine/immune crosstalk between the ovary, fetus, placenta and endometrium
  • Nutritional determinants of pregnancy success and how lifestyle factors including maternal micronutrient status and obesity can lead to complications of pregnancy
  • Factors in seminal plasma that drive early responses in the maternal reproductive tract leading to increased embryo survival
  • Developing surgical techniques in large animal models to facilitate the study of human genetic diseases and infertility

Project 1

Title: Anti-Müllerian hormone as a marker of ovarian reserve, oocyte quality and pregnancy success

Project description: Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) is expressed by ovarian cells of developing follicles and plays an inhibiting role in the cyclic process of follicular recruitment by determining follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) threshold levels. In humans, serum AMH levels are used as a measure of reproductive potential based on the number and quality of eggs left in the ovaries (ovarian reserve). This project will investigate the role of AMH using the pig as an animal model. The pig provides an excellent model to study the effects of AMH on fertility and is the only mammal known to express AMH after ovulation in the ovary.  Systemic and local ovarian levels of AMH together with other factors important for folliculogenesis including growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF-9) and FSH will also be investigated to determine whether together or in isolation these can be used as biomarkers for reproductive efficiency. You will learn significant molecular biology, immunohistochemistry and analytical skills with applications in both animal and human health.

Project available for: Honours / HDR / Masters / Mphil / PhD

Location: AHMS (Adelaide Health & Medical Sciences Building, North Tce) – Level 5.

Research project start: Semester 1 and 2

Project 2

Title: Male infertility and reactive oxygen species in semen

Project description: Male infertility in humans accounts for 40-50% of infertility in humans and affects approximately 7% of men. A major contributor to male infertility are reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are generated by sperm and immune cells within semen. ROS damage the sperm membrane, decreasing sperm motility and its ability to fuse with the oocyte. In addition, ROS can alter the sperm DNA which can lead to defective paternal DNA passing into the embryo leading to pregnancy loss and poor pregnancy outcomes. Using a pig model, we will investigate the level of ROS in boar semen and relate this to the level of sperm damage and historic fertility records. You will learn how to analyse semen and identify and quantify DNA fragmentation by the sperm chromatin dispersion (SCD) technique and identify ROS in semen by chemiluminescence. The results from this project may form the basis of PhD projects.

Project available for: Honours / HDR / Masters / Mphil

Location: AHMS (Adelaide Health & Medical Sciences Building, North Tce) – Level 5.

Research project start: Semester 1 and 2


If you are thinking of doing a PhD in reproductive biology, here are a couple of points you may want to consider.

(1) The difference between an undergraduate and a post-graduate education is the intensity and passion one needs to learn the material.  As an undergraduate, it is mostly fine to keep it together until the next exam and sometimes you can just ‘luck it’ and ace an exam or an assignment. However, a PhD involves learning to the point of being competitive with world leaders in the field, or at least, proving something is interesting or ground breaking! And if you are a lateral thinker and passionate about your field as a PhD candidate you will be provided with many eureka moments along the way!

(2) For students that are considering working with me, I ask that you spend some time googling about medical research, pregnancy complications, pros and cons of post-graduate studies and pitfalls of an academic and research career. And if you still want to contact me, I would love to hear from you. I will also ensure that your supervisory panel will consist of equally passionate experts in their field of research and are dedicated to helping students succeed in their chosen paths.

In my research career, I have been awarded approximately $1.3M in research grants as CIA and $189K as CIB.

Grants held:

2013-2014                   Commercialisation Project – Early Pregnancy Detection. Pork CRC. O’Leary (CIA) $133,400

2010-2012                   Improving reproductive outcome in pigs. Pork CRC. O’Leary, S. (Chief investigator); Project budget $914,319

2007-2009                   Using GnRH analogues to address seasonal infertility in pigs. Pork CRC.  O’Leary, S. (CIA) $244,066

2006-2007                   Development of ovulation synchronization protocols to facilitate natural mating and AI in pigs. Pork CRC. Nottle, MB (CIA);              O’Leary (CIB) $189,206

Post-Graduate Coordinator
I am currently the postgraduate coordinator for 40 PhD students enrolled in the Faculty of Health Sciences in the School of Medicine. I ensure that the requirements of the PhD program are met and progress through the PhD is maximised for students.

2000-2017   Part-time lecturer (CBL tutor) first, second and third year of the MBBS course, School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide

  • Position: Research Fellow
  • Phone: 83131303
  • Email:
  • Fax: 83135412
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences, floor 5
  • Org Unit: Women's and Children's Health

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