A/Prof Sturm is a BSc(Hons), PhD graduate from the University of Adelaide (1985). After a 4 year postdoctoral period as an independent CRI funded postdoctoral fellow at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, USA he returned to Australia in 1990 as a QEII Fellow at the newly established Centre for Molecular Biology, University of Queensland. He became a Principal Research Fellow within the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (2001-2014), and appointed full time within the Dermatology Research Centre, The University of Queensland, School of Medicine in 2015. He is currently in his third 5-year term as an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow (2003-2007; 2008-2012; 2013-2017).
By training A/Prof Sturm is a molecular geneticist with a deep understanding of the relationship of human pigmentation genotype to skin, hair and eye colour phenotypes. He has established and run a successful laboratory investigating transcription factor regulation of gene expression, human pigmentation genetics and the process of melanoma metastasis for 25 years. In the past 5 years he has published 29 primary research and 8 review or commentary articles. He has highly cited and accessed review articles on eye, hair, skin colour and freckling (Human Molecular Genetics 2009, PCMR 2009, Genome Biology 2012, PCMR 2014). In his career he has published a total number of articles collated by ISI = 140, articles with citation data for 124, giving a H-index = 42, total citations > 6300, average per article = 50.98, highest cited publication = 633, articles >100 citations = 17, then articles >50 citations = 14 (Researcher ID: C-9943-2009).
A major area of impact his research has been in the field of skin colour and risk of skin cancer. His research group have been instrumental in determining the role of MC1R gene variants in directing skin phototype and response to both UV-induced ligand binding and receptor activation. A/Prof Sturm's laboratory was the first to describe the gene structure and evolutionary relationship of the three human TYRP1 gene family members, and discovered substantial variation in the MC1R gene in the Caucasian population. The first to link three MC1R alleles R151C, R160W and D294H to the red hair, fair skin and freckling phenotype (RHC) and melanoma risk in populations with European ancestry. Have provided a molecular basis to blue-brown eye colour in our studies of the OCA2 gene. The study of tissue-specific transcription factors expressed in melanocytic cells that coordinate gene expression and differentiation of the melanocytic lineage, such as that encoded by the BRN2 POU gene, have also been a major focus.