Reproductive Science and Medicine

Program Description:
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.

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

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. Throughout the quarter, students will be taught the fundamentals of female reproductive anatomy and reproductive axis function (hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal). Specific topics that will be 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. We will also consider perturbations to the female reproductive system that can lead to infertility, disease, or disorders. Lectures will be interactive and will 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. Throughout the quarter, students will be taught 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. We will also consider perturbations to the male reproductive system that can lead to infertility, disease, or disorders. Lectures will be interactive and will consist of didactic fundamentals, deep dives into the historical literature, and examination of current and emerging topics in the field.

REPR_SCI 406: Human Reproductive Development
Course Director: Teresa Woodruff, 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.  The ultimate goal is to provide students with the intellectual and critical thinking skills to become the next generation of thought leaders who will tackle research problems and fuel discoveries.  Topics covered include ovary and testis development, gametogenesis, fertilization, preimplantation embryo development, implantation/placentation and emerging concepts in interdisciplinary reproductive science including oncofertility and engineering reproductive function. 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 Dr. Beth Sefton with the Center for Reproductive Science, e-sefton@northwestern.edu for permission to enroll.

REPR_SCI 420: Human Reproductive Health and Disease
Course Director: Serdar Bulun, MD; Lia 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 Dr. Beth Sefton with the Center for Reproductive Science, e-sefton@northwestern.edu for permission to enroll.


Training Opportunities:

  1. 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.  
  2. Translational Lectures in Reproductive Science: This seminar series takes place monthly and includes lectures by luminaries in the field of reproductive science and medicine.
  3. Career Catalysts: The Center for Reproductive Science Career Catalyst Series is a monthly series that provides trainees with a mix of professional development workshops, networking, and outreach activities. The series is aimed at preparing students for successful research-related careers.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. Career Hub: The CRS Executive Director, Francesca E. Duncan, PhD, holds regular office hours and is willing to help in whatever way trainees may need for career development. These meetings can take place either by phone, video-conference, or in person.
  2. Constance Campbell Memorial Research Awards: The Constance Campbell Memorial Fund supports oral and poster research awards which are granted at our annual Summit to the top trainee presentations.
  3. Constance Campbell Memorial Travel Awards: The Constance Campbell Memorial Fund supports Travel Awards which trainees may apply for. This award allows for trainees to travel to national and international professional scientific meetings to present their research to the broader scientific community.

Cluster Director:

A list of CRS Faculty Members may be found here: http://www.crs.northwestern.edu/people/members.html