Robert K. Shepherd

B.Sc. (Deakin), Dip. Ed (Hawthorn), Ph.D. (Melbourne)

Director, Bionics Institute

Professor of Medical Bionics, University of Melbourne 

P: +61 3 9667 7513
F: +61 3 9667 7518

Professor Robert Shepherd is the Director of the Bionics Institute and Head of the Medical Bionics Department  within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (MDHS) at The University of Melbourne. 

In 2010 he was appointed as Program Leader of the Preclinical Division of the Bionic Vision Australia national consortium.

He received his Ph.D. in Otolaryngology from the University of Melbourne. Prof Shepherd’s doctoral thesis examined the safety and efficacy of multichannel cochlear implants and contributed to Cochlear Ltd’s successful FDA approval for the clinical use of a multichannel cochlear implant. Prof Shepherd has held international research appointments throughout his career at the Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, U.S.A.; Department of Physiology, J. W. Goethe University, Frankfurt a. M., Germany; and Boys Town National Institute for Communication Disorders in Children, Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A.

Early on in his career he was a mathematics and science teacher, and has continued his commitment to Australian education by teaching undergraduate students and the supervising of 28 postgraduate students throughout his career to date.

Professor Shepherd has authored 209 peer-reviewed scientific papers and invited book chapters, given over 200 presentations at national and international conferences including 82 as an invited speaker and an additional 47 invited community-based presentations. He has been a Principal Investigator on more than $90m of research funding including grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the Australian Research Council, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. He continues to work closely with industry through research links with Cochlear Ltd. and Living Cells Technologies Ltd.

Listen to Prof Shepherd's podcast on Medical Bionics, courtesy of Melbourne University Up Close.

Research fields of interest

  • Neural prostheses and their therapeutic applications

  • Neurophysiological and histopathological effects of neural stimulators with particular emphasis on cochlear implant

  • Rescuing and regenerating auditory neurons

  • Neurophysiology and morphology of the auditory system

  • Pathophysiology of ototoxicity

  • Mammalian cochlear anatomy

  • Drug delivery systems

  • Bionic vision



1996-2001       Garnett Passe & Rodney Williams Senior Research Fellow
2003-2006       Wagstaff Fellow in Otology, Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital
2013               The Sir Hugh Devine Lecture, The University of Melbourne/St Vincent’s Hospital
2013               Finalist, Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
2014               The Garnett Passe Memorial Lecture and the Garnett Passe Medal,
                      The Royal Society of Medicine, London, UK
2015               Elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences
2015               Selected as one of Australia’s 100 leaders who create and apply knowledge by
                      the Knowledge Society and the Office of the Chief Scientist



  1. Wade, S.A., Fallon, J.B., Wise, A.K., Shepherd, R.K., James, N. & Stoddart, P.R. Measurement of Forces at the Tip of a Cochlear Implant during Insertion, IEEE Trans Biomed Eng (in press). 

  2. Saunders, A.L., Williams, C.E., Heriot, W., W.H., Briggs, R., Yeoh, J., Nayagam, D.A.X., McCombe, M., Villalobos, J., Burns, O., Luu, C.D., Ayton, L.N., McPhedran, M., Opie, N.L., McGowan, C., Shepherd, R.K., Guymer, R. & Allen, P.J. Development of a surgical procedure for implantation of a prototype suprachoroidal retinal prosthesis, Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology (in press).

  3. Fallon, J.B., Shepherd, R.K. & Irvine, D.R.F.  Effects of chronic cochlear electrical stimulation after an extended period of profound deafness on primary auditory cortex organization in cats.  Eur J Neurosci (in press).

  4. Newbold, C., Richardson, R., Stathopoulos, D., Seligman, P., Millard, R., Shepherd, R.K. & Cowan, R. Impedance changes in chronically implanted and stimulated cochlear implant electrodes. Cochlear Implants International (in press). 

  5. Irving, S., Trotter, M.I., Fallon, J.B., Millard, R.E., Shepherd, R.K. & Wise, A.K. Cochlear implantation for chronic electrical stimulation in the mouse. Hear Res. 306: 37-45, 2013.

  6. John, S.E., Shivdasani, M.N., Williams, C.E., Morley, J.W., Shepherd R.K., Rathbone, G.D. & Fallon, J.B. Suprachoroidal electrical stimulation: Effect of stimulus pulse parameters on visual cortical response. J Neural Eng. 10: e56011, 2013.

  7. Shepherd, R. K., Shivdasani, M. N., Nayagam, D. A. X., Williams, C. E. & Blamey, P. J. Visual prostheses for the blind. Trends in Biotechnology. 31: 562-571, 2013.

  8. Villalobos, J., Nayagam, D.A.X., Allen, P.J., McKelvie, P., Luu, C.D., Ayton, L.N., Saunders, A.L., McPhedran, M., Basa, M., McGowan, C.C., Shepherd, R.K. & Williams, C.A. A wide-field suprachoroidal retinal prosthesis is stable and well tolerated following chronic implantation. Inv Ophth Vis Sci. 54: 3751-3762, 2013.

  9. Landry, T.G., Fallon, J.B., Wise, A.K. & Shepherd, R.K. Chronic neurotrophin delivery promotes ectopic neurite growth from the spiral ganglion of deafened cochleae without compromising the spatial selectivity of cochlear implants. J Comp Neurol. 521: 2818-2832, 2013.

  10. Atkinson, P.L., Wise, A.K., Flynn, B.O., Nayagam, B.A., Hume, C.R., O’Leary, Shepherd, R.K. & Richardson, R.T.  Neurotrophin gene therapy for sustained neural preservation after deafness.  PLoS One. 7: e52338, 2012.

See more publications by Robert Shepherd in PubMed and ResearchGate.

Invited presentations

  1. “An overview of Medical Bionics” - JIPMER Scientific Society, Pondicherry, India 9/12/13.
  2. “New Developments in Medical Bionics and their Potential Applications” – ATSE Health Technology Forum Seminar, Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering AGM, Adelaide, 22/11/13.
  3. The 2013 Sir Hugh Devine Oration “From the ear to eye – A short distance but a long journey” – St Vincent’s Surgical Forum 2013, Melbourne 20/8/13.
  4. “Medical Bionics: Neural interfaces for damaged nerves” – 2013 Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research, Queenstown, New Zealand, August 24–28, 2013.
  5. “Visual prostheses: a progress report for the CIAP community” – CIAP 2013, Lake Tahoe, USA, July 2013.
  6. “Neural prostheses: practical applications in neuroscience” – Centre for Brain Research Seminar, Auckland, New Zealand, 27/6/13.
  7. “Research and Clinical Applications of Medical Bionics” – DARPA Neural Interfaces Symposium, Melbourne, 21/5/13.
  8. “Sensory prostheses: Practical applications in neuroscience” - University of Western Sydney Sensory Neuroscience Symposium, 10/12/12.
  9. “Innovation in medicine: medical bionics as a case study” The Power of Innovation: New South Wales Health Symposium, Sydney, October 19, 2012.  
  10. “The path to success of the cochlear implant” International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society, Banff, Alberta, Canada, September 9-12, 2012.

Video presentations

The Bionic Eye Prototype 




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