Dr Michael Geaghan

Dr Michael Geaghan

Post Doctoral Research Fellow

School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy

Career Summary


I am a post-doctoral researcher in the molecular neurobiology lab, working under the supervision of Professor Murray Cairns. My current research is focused on the molecular biology underlying psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia. I am particularly passionate about understanding the consequences of genetic risk factors on cellular function, and how these changes drive the development and symptomatology of disease. Throughout my PhD program, I investigated the roles of schizophrenia-associated small RNAs and how their expression influenced gene networks and cellular function. Notably, my research identified a disruption of gene networks involved in immune cell function in schizophrenia, a result which was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2019. Through my research I have developed skills in both laboratory-based techniques - including cell culture, next-generation RNA sequencing library preparation, and animal behavioural models - as well as computational techniques important for the analysis of high-throughput data generated by sequencing technologies.

My work has been published in well-respected journals, and I have also been given the opportunity to present my work at several conferences over the course of my PhD program, both domestic and international, including the Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) conference in 2018 in Florence, Italy, and the American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG) and World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics (WCPG) conferences in 2019 in the USA.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Biotachnology, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours), University of Newcastle


  • Biological psychiatry
  • Functional genomics
  • Genetics
  • Molecular biology
  • Schizophrenia


  • English (Mother)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
060408 Genomics 50
060805 Animal Neurobiology 50

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Post Doctoral Research Fellow University of Newcastle
School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Chapter (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2017 Geaghan M, Cairns MJ, 'Small RNA Dysregulation in Neurocognitive and Neuropsychiatric Disorders', Essentials of Noncoding RNA in Neuroscience: Ontogenetics, Plasticity of the Vertebrate Brain, Academic Press, London 225-245 (2017) [B1]
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-804402-5.00013-3
Citations Scopus - 1
Co-authors Murray Cairns

Journal article (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Geaghan MP, Atkins JR, Brichta AM, Tooney PA, Scott RJ, Carr VJ, Cairns MJ, 'Alteration of miRNA-mRNA interactions in lymphocytes of individuals with schizophrenia', Journal of Psychiatric Research, 112 89-98 (2019) [C1]

© 2019 Elsevier Ltd The aetiology of schizophrenia is complex, heterogeneous, and involves interplay of many genetic and environmental influences. While significant progress has b... [more]

© 2019 Elsevier Ltd The aetiology of schizophrenia is complex, heterogeneous, and involves interplay of many genetic and environmental influences. While significant progress has been made in the understanding the common heritable component, we are still grappling with the genomic encoding of environmental risk. One class of molecule that has tremendous potential is miRNA. These molecules are regulated by genetic and environmental factors associated with schizophrenia and have a very significant impact on temporospatial patterns of gene expression. To better understand the relationship between miRNA and gene expression in the disorder we analysed these molecules in RNA isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) obtained from an Australian cohort of 36 individuals with schizophrenia and 15 healthy controls using next-generation RNA sequencing. Significant changes in both mRNA and miRNA expression profiles were observed implicating important interaction networks involved in immune activity and development. We also observed sexual dimorphism, particularly in relation to variation in mRNA, with males showing significantly more differentially expressed genes. Interestingly, while we explored expression in lymphocytes, the systems biology of miRNA-mRNA interactions was suggestive of significant pleiotropy with enrichment of networks related to neuronal activity.

DOI 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.02.023
Citations Scopus - 3Web of Science - 5
Co-authors Paul Tooney, Rodney Scott, Murray Cairns, Alan Brichta
2015 Geaghan M, Cairns MJ, 'MicroRNA and Posttranscriptional Dysregulation in Psychiatry', Biological Psychiatry, 78 231-239 (2015) [C1]

© 2015 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Psychiatric syndromes, including schizophrenia, mood disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, are characterized by a complex range of sym... [more]

© 2015 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Psychiatric syndromes, including schizophrenia, mood disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, are characterized by a complex range of symptoms, including psychosis, depression, mania, and cognitive deficits. Although the mechanisms driving pathophysiology are complex and remain largely unknown, advances in the understanding of gene association and gene networks are providing significant clues to their etiology. In recent years, small noncoding RNA molecules known as microRNA (miRNA) have emerged as potential players in the pathophysiology of mental illness. These small RNAs regulate hundreds of target transcripts by modifying their stability and translation on a broad scale, influencing entire gene networks in the process. There is evidence to suggest that numerous miRNAs are dysregulated in postmortem neuropathology of neuropsychiatric disorders, and there is strong genetic support for association of miRNA genes and their targets with these conditions. This review presents the accumulated evidence linking miRNA dysregulation and dysfunction with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and autism spectrum disorders and the potential of miRNAs as biomarkers or therapeutics for these disorders. We further assess the functional roles of some outstanding miRNAs associated with these conditions and how they may be influencing the development of psychiatric symptoms.

DOI 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.12.009
Citations Scopus - 91Web of Science - 85
Co-authors Murray Cairns

Conference (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
DOI 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2019.08.181
Co-authors Murray Cairns

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions


Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2018 PhD Identifying functional variants for complex trait disorders using RNA guided genome editing PhD (Biological Sciences), Faculty of Science, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor

Dr Michael Geaghan


Post Doctoral Research Fellow
Molecular Neurobiology
School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy
Faculty of Health and Medicine

Contact Details

Email michael.geaghan@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 8748
Link Twitter


Room MS.616
Building Medical Sciences
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308