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Reproductive Science (Cluster)

Reproductive science and medicine encompasses the study of endocrinology, gonad development, gametogenesis and embryogenesis, and reproductive tract biology.  These areas of research influence health and disease, as they are fundamental to our understanding of fertility and infertility, contraception, infectious diseases, pregnancy, fetal origins of adult disease, and trans-generational epigenetic inheritance.   In addition, reproductive science has broad general health consequences because it is well known that gonadal hormones regulate sexual, bone, cardiovascular, immune, and cognitive functions.

Northwestern University is at the forefront of reproductive research, medicine, and technology. The Center for Reproductive Science (CRS) at Northwestern University was formed in 1987 and currently consists of almost 200 faculty members and 100 trainees across basic science and clinical departments. As a group, these researchers have received millions of dollars in research funding from government agencies and private foundations - enabling significant inroads into research on reproductive hormone signaling mechanisms, reproductive tract conditions, infectious diseases, determinants of gamete quality, ex vivo integrated reproductive tract systems, and ovarian cancer.  

Students in the Reproductive Science and Medicine cluster will partake in these research endeavors, can elect to partake in reproductive-focused courses, and will have full access to a wide away of programs and services offered through the CRS.

Funding Opportunities

 This cluster has opportunities to receive training funding in the form of T32 training grant support, research merit awards, and travel funding.

  • Predoctoral Training Program in Reproductive Science, Medicine, and Technology
  • Pre-doctoral cluster students who are entering their second or third year of graduate studies in one of the following graduate programs (DGP, IBiS, Chemistry, BME, MSTP, NUIN) can receive up to 2 years of support that covers, tuition and stipend, unique collaborative training opportunities, professional development, and travel.
  • Center for Reproductive Science Awards
  • Students traveling to present their research at scientific meetings can apply to receive travel funds through CRS which are awarded twice a year. Additionally, awards are presented to trainees with the best oral and poster presentations at CRS sponsored symposia.

Training Opportunities

  • Reproductive Research Updates: Each week for over 30 years, the Center for Reproductive Science has hosted Reproductive Research Updates - a forum in which CRS trainees present their research to Northwestern scientists across the Evanston and Chicago campuses as well as the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute.
  • Translational Lectures in Reproductive Science: The CRS sponsors the Translational Lectures in Reproductive Science (LRS) seminar series. This seminar series takes place seasonally and includes lectures by luminaries in the field of reproductive science and medicine. These seminars are open to the broader Northwestern community and interested members of the public. Our named lectures include: Erwin Goldberg Lecture in Male Reproduction, Neena B. Schwartz Memorial Lectureship in Reproductive Science, Danielle Maatouk Memorial Lectureship, and the CRS Alumni Lecture. View the upcoming schedule on Planit Purple. To participate in the program or to suggest a speaker, please contact the CRS Program Coordinator.
  • Career Catalysts: The Center for Reproductive Science Career Catalyst Series is a monthly seminar that will provide trainees with a mix of professional development workshops, networking, and outreach activities. The series is aimed at preparing students for success, from industry or government careers, to workshops in PubMed and preparing manuscripts for publication. Visit Planit-Purple for more information on upcoming events.
  • The Reproductive Science and Medicine Summit: This annual event showcases reproductive science and medicine research conducted at Northwestern and surrounding Chicago area institutions. An organizing committee composed of CRS trainees is central to the success of this event. The Summit includes distinguished internal and external speakers, and trainee oral and poster presentations.  Trainee and travel awards for this event have been funded through the Constance Campbell Memorial Fund since 1989.
  • The Illinois Symposium on Reproductive Science (ISRS) This annual regional meeting offers a unique opportunity for graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and clinical fellows in the reproductive sciences to plan a meeting and present their research to their peers and senior scientists from across Illinois. The meeting is hosted by a rotation of Illinois universities including Northwestern, UIUC, UIC, and Southern Illinois University (SIU). The goals of ISRS are to celebrate our strong research and educational heritage, to foster the exchange of scientific information in the reproductive sciences, to facilitate the training and career development of future reproductive scientists, and to leverage our collective institutional strengths to maintain Illinois in a preeminent nationwide position in this critical research field.

Training Resources and Professional Development

  • Constance Campbell Memorial Research Awards: The Constance Campbell Memorial Fund supports oral and poster research awards which are granted at our annual Reproductive Science and Medicine Summit to the top trainee presentations.
  • Constance Campbell Memorial Travel Awards: The Constance Campbell Memorial Fund supports Travel Awards which trainees may apply for. Applications for the travel awards are open twice a year (fall, spring). This award allows for trainees to travel to national and international professional scientific meetings to present their research to the broader scientific community.
  • Teaching Assistantships: CRS offers cluster trainees the opportunity to develop their teaching skills by supporting trainee TA's for our reproductive science and medicine class offerings. These TA-ships can fulfill PhD graduate program requirements or for compensation. Contact CRS for more information about these opportunities.
  • Sub-committee Engagement: CRS has three leadership subcommittees in place to enhance the CRS community's ability to leverage its resources to make a greater impact and ensure that we continue doing good science and science for good. Our sub-committee focuses are on Community Engagement, Programming and Events, and Diversity.

Who to Contact

Please contact Pamela Monahan, PhD, the CRS Director of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, or the Program Directors, listed below, with questions about this program. Or, explore the Center for Reproductive Science website for more information.

  • Julie Kim, PhD, Susy Y. Hung Research Professor, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, co-Director, Center for Reproductive Science
  • Francesca Duncan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, co-Director, Center for Reproductive Science

Although this cluster does not require specific coursework, we offer courses focused on human reproductive health that RSM cluster members are encouraged to take.

Foundational Courses

REPR_SCI 405: Female Reproductive Physiology and Endocrinology

  • Course Director: Pamela Monahan, PhD
  • Offered: Fall
  • Campus: Chicago
  • This is a lecture-based course that provides a comprehensive survey of the structure and function of the female reproductive system. Students will discuss the fundamentals of female reproductive anatomy and reproductive axis function (hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal). Specific topics covered include: female sex determination and differentiation, reproductive hormone signaling and action, the ovarian and menstrual cycles, oogenesis and folliculogenesis, pregnancy and parturition, and female reproductive technologies. Topics will be presented from molecular, cellular, and tissue perspectives and will span development, puberty, adulthood, and reproductive senescence. Perturbations to the female reproductive system that can lead to infertility, disease, or disorders will be considered. Lectures are interactive and consist of didactic fundamentals, deep dives into the historical literature, and examination of current and emerging topics in the field.

REPR_SCI 407: Male Reproductive Physiology and Endocrinology

  • Course Director: Pamela Monahan, PhD
  • Offered: Fall
  • Campus: Chicago
  • This is a lecture-based course that provides a comprehensive survey of the structure and function of the male reproductive system. Students will discuss the fundamentals of male reproductive anatomy and reproductive axis function (hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal). Specific topics that will be covered include: male sex determination and differentiation, reproductive hormone signaling and action, spermatogenesis, sperm capacitation and fertilization, male reproductive behavioral changes, and male reproductive technologies. Topics will be presented from molecular, cellular, and tissue perspectives and will span development, puberty, adulthood, and reproductive senescence. Perturbations to the male reproductive system that can lead to infertility, disease, or disorders will be considered. Lectures are interactive and consist of didactic fundamentals, deep dives into the historical literature, and examination of current and emerging topics in the field.

Advanced Topic Courses

REPR_SCI 406: Emerging Research in Reproductive Science and Medicine

  • Course Directors: Julie Kim, PhD
  • Offered: Winter
  • Campus: Chicago
  • This is a primary literature and critical thinking-based course designed to challenge students with historical, contemporary, and emerging concepts in reproductive science and medicine, particularly around the concepts of human reproductive development and ways to regulate and restore function. The ultimate goal is to provide students with the intellectual and critical thinking skills to become the next generation of leaders who will tackle research problems and fuel discoveries. Topics covered include model systems for reproductive science and medicine research, epigenetics, hormone receptor signaling, endocrine disruption for therapy and due environmental toxins, cancer stem cells, next generation sequencing, and reproductive engineering. The course is team-taught by instructors who are active researchers and leaders themselves in these research areas. Students will delve into the literature to examine how research questions are identified and how technologies are enabled or created to address them. A basic understanding of cell and molecular biology is a prerequisite for this course in addition to prior completion of REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407. Students who have not completed REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407 should contact the Center for Reproductive Science, crs@northwestern.edu, for permission to enroll.

REPR_SCI 415: Medical Management of Fertility

  • Course Director: Mary Ellen Pavone, MD
  • Offered: Winter
  • Campus: Chicago
  • This course exposes students to key topics in assisted reproductive technologies (ART), embryology, and andrology. The course, which is team-taught by faculty with translational and clinical expertise, covers gamete and embryo biology, assisted reproductive techniques and associated technologies, ethics, and an introduction to fertility clinic operation. Students will also have the opportunity to experience some commonly used clinical laboratory techniques in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, such as sperm processing and analysis for ART, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), time-lapse morphokinetics, embryo biopsy and genetic screening, and gamete cryopreservation and thawing. A basic understanding of cell and molecular biology is a prerequisite for this course in addition to prior completion of REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407. Students who have not completed REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407 should contact the Center for Reproductive Science, crs@northwestern.edu ,for permission to enroll. 

REPR_SCI 420: Human Reproductive Health and Disease

  • Course Director: Lia A. Bernardi, MD
  • Offered: Spring
  • Campus: Chicago
  • This course covers human reproductive health and disease from a clinical angle – from physiology to pathology to therapeutic interventions. Aspects of both male and female reproduction are covered. The course is team-taught primarily by clinicians and physician-scientists who are experts in reproductive science and medicine and who are active in research and patient care. Topics include sexual function and dysfunction, infertility, reproductive aging, reproductive cancers, endometriosis, uterine leiomyoma, and pregnancy complications. Class sessions are interactive, and discussions focus on pathology, risk factors, diagnosis, standard of care, and the current status of research. A basic understanding of cell and molecular biology is a prerequisite for this course in addition to prior completion of REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407. Students who have not completed REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407 should contact the Center for Reproductive Science, crs@northwestern.edu ,for permission to enroll. 

REPR_SCI 430: Translational Topics in Fertility Preservation and Oncofertility

  • Course Directors: Kara Goldman, MD and Monica M. Laronda, PhD
  • Offered: Spring
  • Campus: Chicago
  • Cancer patients are surviving their disease in increasing numbers, converting what was once a mortal diagnosis to a cure or a chronic illness. However, as survival rates increase, many patients are faced with off-target effects and complications of cancer treatment, including compromised reproductive function –ranging from destruction of gametes to the loss of pituitary and gonadal hormone production. It is in this setting that the discipline of Oncofertility emerged which blends the field of oncology with fertility. Oncofertility researchers are working to provide information about the iatrogenic effects of drugs on reproductive organs and to develop strategies that will preserve and restore reproductive function. Advances in the oncology arena are being paralleled by those in reproductive medicine and science, which together are continuously improving and expanding the fertility preservation repertoire for men, women, and children. This lecture and case studies-based course bridges basic science and clinical knowledge to expose students to the translational advances in the field of oncofertility and fertility preservation. Course topics include fertility preservation in different populations (adult women and men, pediatrics, transgender and disorders of sex development (DSD)populations), tissue/cell processing methods (gamete and gonad harvesting, processing, cryopreservation, and storage), clinical care (patient navigation conversations, consults, cancer agent risk factors, psychological factors), fundamental biology techniques (bioengineering gonadal bioprostheses, spheroids, microphysiologic platforms, follicle culture), and ethical issues in the field. Students will also learn to evaluate complex case studies with complimentary lectures. A basic understanding of cell and molecular biology is a prerequisite for this course in addition to prior completion of REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407. Completion of REPR_SCI 440 is also required so that students are familiar with the lab techniques that will be discussed in this course.

Professional Training Courses

REPR_SCI 425: Responsible Conduct of Research in Reproductive Science

  • Course Director: Giulia Vigone, PhD
  • Offered: Fall
  • Campus: Chicago
  • The goal of this course is to provide instruction and guidance on the responsible conduct of research as it pertains to all scientific disciplines but also through the specific lens of reproductive science and medicine.  The National Institutes of Health defines the responsible conduct of research as the practice of scientific investigation with integrity. The responsible conduct of research involves the awareness and application of established professional norms and ethical principles in the performance of all activities related to research. Students will learn about and discuss a variety of topics required to perform high quality research, including rigor and reproducibility, mentoring relationships, authorship and peer review, misconduct and integrity, conflicts of interest, animals and humans in research, collaborations/team science, and social impact. Students will complete laboratory safety training and biomedical human subjects research training as part of this course. Students will demonstrate understanding of course concepts through case studies, faculty interviews, and classroom engagement. The quarter culminates in a student-driven case study discussion. Contemporary social impact issues from reproductive science are integrated throughout the class.

REPR_SCI 455: Science Communication in Reproductive Science and Medicine

  • Course Director: Giulia Vigone, PhD
  • Offered: Winter
  • Campus: Chicago
  • The goal of this course is to increase students’ competence in oral, written and visual science communication. Students will learn how to communicate complex topics in reproductive science and medicine to their scientific community and their peers, as well as to broad audiences including funders, policymakers, and the media. Over the course of the quarter, students will learn to write a research abstract and research proposal. They will also prepare a visual representation of their scientific hypothesis and learn to deliver an oral presentation in the form of a 3-minute elevator pitch. Through these deliverables, students will practice writing, editing, and giving constructive criticism on written and oral assignments through peer-review and class interactions.  This class is co-taught by a board-certified editor in the life sciences with experience in biomedical writing, editing, and consulting.

REPR_SCI 497: Assessment and Career Planning

  • Course Director: Giulia Vigone, PhD
  • Offered: Spring
  • Campus: Chicago
  • This course is designed to provide students with skills and resources to evaluate themselves in light of their career and professional goals so that they are prepared to be well-rounded scientists. Students receive instruction on self-assessment and professional development planning. Students will identify their strengths using assessment tools and use this information to set goals to utilize strengths more effectively. To practice and understand the power of professional networking, students will identify individuals actively engaged in professions of interest and conduct informational interviews. In-class activities include mock speed networking, informational interviews, and job interviews to increase comfort with these important professional interactions. This course also includes classes on resumes, CVs, and cover letters as well as the job search process and interviewing to provide a well-rounded approach to professional development. This course does not specifically prepare students for any one career. Rather, recognizing that professional development is a continuous process, this course provides students the skills and resources to uncover their unique strengths relevant to the professional world of reproductive science and medicine.