Dr Emmalee Ford

Dr Emmalee Ford

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy (Medical Biochemistry)

Career Summary


Education is a road to empowerment

Emmalee is passionate about scientific literacy and education about reproductive health. Having began her university journey as a secondary science education student, Emmalee was determined to inspire the next generation of scientists. Realising the research potential at the University of Newcastle, Emmalee decided to pursue her goal in a new environment, by working with other scientists and the public to increase awareness about fertility and reproductive health.
“Even when I was specialising in reproduction, there was so much I still didn’t know about how my body worked.”
Though trained as a traditional molecular biologist, Emmalee began to incorporate public health research into her PhD. During this time Emmalee investigated how much the general public understood fertility, and investigated new ways to bridge the gap in fertility knowledge.

The cause is key to the cure

Emmalee also specialises in researching a process that occurs in the ovaries known as primordial follicle activation. Primordial follicle activation is the mechanism by which eggs are selected for growth and eventual ovulation. When this process is altered, it can lead to the early loss of eggs in a condition known as premature ovarian insufficiency. One in 100 women are diagnosed with premature ovarian insufficiency, which is characterised by early menopause before the age of 40.

The process of primordial follicle activation remains poorly understood despite decades of research, and Emmalee investigates the role of supporting cells in the ovary to determine how the ovary selects which eggs to grow. This type of research is used to find better ways to diagnose premature ovarian insufficiency, and to find treatments for those at risk of losing their fertility, like patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Modern solutions applied to modern problems

Emmalee’s current research is focused on addressing fertility knowledge in young people. Throughout her PhD, Emmalee studied reproductive health apps which include apps that track menstrual cycles, or provide fertility ratings to avoid or plan pregnancies. She believes that apps have an important role to play in understanding fertility, but there is much work to be done.
“Apps provide a comfort to hundreds of thousands of people who want to learn more about their bodies. Except the market isn’t regulated, and apps are selling a service that isn’t one-fits-all. Lots of content can be misleading or outright false. Even the apps with better quality information hide this behind a paywall, which really limits the good they can do for us.”

Emmalee continues to champion reproductive health knowledge by using her voice in the community to reduce the taboo of discussing sexual health. She appears in local media, and at community events to foster interest in fertility awareness and to continue to be a visible young women in STEMM to inspire the next generation of scientists.
A new project sees Emmalee along with Doctor Jessie Sutherland and a multi-disciplinary team of academics and industry leaders to research fertility knowledge in high schools. By educating young people at this key period in their lives, they can be empowered to understand their bodies and make informed decisions with their lifestyle and future family planning.


  • Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Biochemistry, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of Newcastle


  • fertility knowledge
  • infertility
  • mhealth
  • ovary development
  • primordial follicle activation

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
420603 Health promotion 40
321503 Reproduction 60

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Postdoctoral Research Fellow University of Newcastle
School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy
Casual Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy

Professional appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
2/3/2020 - 18/12/2020 Research Assistant University of Newcastle - Faculty of Health and Medicine
School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy



Year Award
2020 Most Valuable Postgraduate (MVP)
University of Newcastle Student Association | UNSA
2018 Australia Day Award from the NSW Council for Women & Soroptimists
Nation Council For Women NSW
2018 Best Oral Presentation | People's choice
UON Biology HDR Society


Year Award
2019 Oozoa Award Finalist
Australian Society for Reproductive Biology


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Journal article (6 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2021 Ford EA, Peters AE, Roman SD, McLaughlin EA, Beckett EL, Sutherland JM, 'A scoping review of the information provided by fertility smartphone applications', Human Fertility, (2021)

The growth of smartphone application use across areas of female reproductive health has led to increased interest into their functions and benefits. This scoping review aims to de... [more]

The growth of smartphone application use across areas of female reproductive health has led to increased interest into their functions and benefits. This scoping review aims to determine the nature and extent of the peer-reviewed literature presented on fertility-based apps, to identify the reliability of the information within the apps, and to determine the ability of this information to educate users. A systematic search of six databases was conducted in April 2020, returning a total of 21,158 records. After duplicate removal, title and abstract screening exclusionary steps, 27 records were reviewed and charted. Records covered a variety of reproductive health themes including contraception, sexual health, and family planning, and used a range of methodologies. The accuracy of fertility information within the apps reported in these studies was variable, but overall there was a lack of depth in the coverage of content in apps. It was common for studies in this review to base fertile window algorithms on stringent cycle length and variability requirements, limiting the applicability of information delivered to users. Furthermore, studies from app affiliates often lacked collaborations with researchers, minimising the potential for fertility knowledge improvements integrated across the suite of female reproductive health apps.

DOI 10.1080/14647273.2021.1871784
Co-authors Eileen Mclaughlin, Jessie Sutherland, Emma Beckett, Shaun Roman
2021 Frost ER, Ford EA, Taylor G, Boeing S, Beckett EL, Roman SD, et al., 'Two alternative methods for the retrieval of somatic cell populations from the mouse ovary.', Mol Hum Reprod, 27 (2021)
DOI 10.1093/molehr/gaab033
Co-authors Emma Beckett, Shaun Roman, Jessie Sutherland, Eileen Mclaughlin
2020 Frost ER, Ford EA, Peters AE, Reed NL, McLaughlin EA, Baker MA, et al., 'Signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 1 and STAT3 are expressed in the human ovary and have Janus kinase 1-independent functions in the COV434 human granulosa cell line', Reproduction, Fertility and Development, 32 1027-1039 (2020) [C1]
DOI 10.1071/RD20098
Citations Scopus - 1
Co-authors Eileen Mclaughlin, Jessie Sutherland, Mark Baker
2020 Ford E, Beckett EL, Roman S, McLaughlin EA, Sutherland J, 'Advances in human primordial follicle activation and premature ovarian insufficiency.', Reproduction, 159 R15-R29 (2020) [C1]
DOI 10.1530/rep-19-0201
Citations Scopus - 21Web of Science - 21
Co-authors Eileen Mclaughlin, Jessie Sutherland, Shaun Roman, Emma Beckett
2020 Ford EA, Roman SD, McLaughlin EA, Beckett EL, Sutherland JM, 'The association between reproductive health smartphone applications and fertility knowledge of Australian women', BMC Women's Health, 20 (2020) [C1]
DOI 10.1186/s12905-020-00912-y
Citations Scopus - 5Web of Science - 5
Co-authors Eileen Mclaughlin, Emma Beckett, Shaun Roman, Jessie Sutherland
2018 Sutherland JM, Frost ER, Ford EA, Peters AE, Reed NL, Seldon AN, et al., 'Janus Kinase JAK1 maintains the ovarian reserve of primordial follicles in the mouse ovary.', Molecular Human Reproduction, 24 533-542 (2018) [C1]
DOI 10.1093/molehr/gay041
Citations Scopus - 9Web of Science - 9
Co-authors Jessie Sutherland, Eileen Mclaughlin
Show 3 more journal articles

Grants and Funding


Number of grants 1
Total funding $10,000

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

20211 grants / $10,000

Cooper Surgical Support for: Fertility Education in High School Project$10,000

Funding body: Origio Australasia Pty Ltd

Funding body Origio Australasia Pty Ltd
Project Team Doctor Jessie Sutherland, Doctor Emmalee Ford
Scheme Research Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2021
Funding Finish 2021
GNo G2001205
Type Of Funding C3100 – Aust For Profit
Category 3100


Australia Day award honours outstanding women in research

January 25, 2018

Three exceptional UON researchers have been recognised as inspiring leaders with an Australia Day Honour from the National Women's Council of NSW

Dr Emmalee Ford


Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Science
School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy
College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing

Casual Lecturer
Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Science
School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy
College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing

Focus area

Medical Biochemistry

Contact Details

Email emmalee.ford@newcastle.edu.au
Phone 49138536
Link Twitter


Room LS3.45
Building Life Sciences Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308