SSR 2015 Featured Speakers

Elizabeth Watkins, Ph.D.
(Historical Perspectives Keynote Address)

Position: Elizabeth Watkins, Ph.D., is Dean of the Graduate Division, Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs, and Professor of the History of Health Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. She joined the faculty at UCSF in 2004 and served as director of graduate studies for the Ph.D. and M.A. programs in History of Health Sciences until her appointment as Dean in 2012.

Education: She earned her B.A. in Biology and her Ph.D. in the History of Science, both at Harvard University.

Research: Dr. Watkins is the author of On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives (1998) and The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America (2007), and co-editor of Medicating Modern America: Prescription Drugs in History (2007), Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America (2012), and a forthcoming volume titled Therapeutic Revolutions Revisited: Histories of Pharmaceuticals and Social Change. She has also published articles on the history of Norplant, the history of male menopause, and the history of stress.

Achievements: Her research has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the NIH/National Library of Medicine, the National Academy of Education, the National Science Foundation, the University of California President's Research Fellowship in the Humanities, and an ACOG/Ortho-McNeil Fellowship in the History of American Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Ina Dobrinski, D.V.M., Ph.D.
(State-of-the-Art Lecture)

Position: Ina Dobrinski, D.V.M., M.V.Sc., Ph.D., Diplomate A.C.T., is Professor of Reproductive Biology and Head of the Department of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary. Dr. Dobrinski also holds an appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Faculty of Medicine at the same institution, and is a scientist with Alberta Innovates—Health Solutions.

Education: Dr. Dobrinski received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from Hannover School of Veterinary Medicine in Germany and completed a residency in bovine reproduction. She then moved to the University of Saskatchewan where she completed another residency in large animal reproduction, received a Master in Veterinary Science degree, and subsequently became board certified by the American College of Theriogenologists. Dr. Dobrinski then moved to Cornell University where she received a Ph.D. in reproductive biology. She then joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was promoted to full professor in 2008. Subsequently, she joined the newly established Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary.

Research: Dr. Dobrinski's research focuses on male germ line stem cells in mammalian models ranging from mice to men. Her group first established germ cell transplantation in large animals as a strategy to create genetically modified large animal models for biomedical research and for the production of biopharmaceutical proteins in the milk of transgenic dairy animals. She also pioneered xenotransplantation of testis tissue and cells as a bioassay to study germ cells and testis function in non-rodent animal models.

Achievements: Her work has been funded continuously by federal and state/provincial agencies since 1998. To date, she has published 77 peer-reviewed research papers, 15 book chapters, and 12 invited reviews. Dr. Dobrinski has served the scientific community on numerous committees and multiple scientific societies (including service as reviewing editor for Biology of Reproduction).

David P. Bartel, Ph.D.
(State-of-the-Art Lecture)

Position/Education: David Bartel received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1993 and soon thereafter started a lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where he is also Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Research: Dr. Bartel's lab initially studied the ability of RNA to catalyze reactions, and more recently has focused on microRNAs and other regulatory RNAs. Over the past 14 years, his lab has contributed to the understanding of the genomics, biogenesis, and regulatory targets of these RNAs, as well as the molecular and biological consequences of their actions in animals, plants, and fungi.

David C. Page, M.D.
(President's Symposium)

Position: David C. Page, M.D., is Director of the Whitehead Institute, Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Research: Dr. Page's laboratory studies the foundations of mammalian reproduction, with particular attention to the X and Y chromosomes, infertility, and the fetal origins of sex cells—the precursors of eggs and sperm. He has reconstructed the evolution of today's X and Y chromosomes from an ancestral pair of chromosomes that existed 300 million years ago, and discovered molecular evolutionary mechanisms by which the Y chromosome became functionally specialized in spermatogenesis. He discovered and characterized the most common genetic cause of spermatogenic failure in humans: deletion of the AZFc region of the Y chromosome. He also found that aberrant crossing-over within the Y chromosome's palindromes underlies a wide range of disorders of sexual differentiation, including Turner syndrome. Recently, his expanded genomic studies of Y chromosomes in eight mammals revealed that male-specific, Y-chromosome genes are enriched for global regulators of cellular processes, which has important implications for understanding fundamental differences between males and females.

Achievements: His honors include a MacArthur Prize Fellowship, Science magazine's Top Ten Scientific Advances of the Year (in 1992 and again in 2003), and the 2011 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology. He is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Willie J. Swanson, Ph.D.
(President's Symposium)

Position/Education: Willie J. Swanson, Ph.D., received his B.S. in Biology from the University of California, San Diego in 1992 and Ph.D. in Marine Biology from UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1998 under the mentorship of Victor D. Vacquier. He was awarded a Sloan/NSF postdoctoral fellowship to work with Charles F. Aquadro and Mariana F. Wolfner on the population genetics of reproductive protein diversity. In 2001 he joined the Biology Department faculty at the University of California Riverside, and then moved to the University of Washington where he is currently a Professor in the Department of Genome Sciences.

Research: Dr. Swanson's research on the function and evolution of reproductive proteins is highly integrative, using proteomics, genomics, biochemical, and computational approaches. He and his colleagues work on a variety of taxonomic groups, including abalone, Drosophila, and primates.

Achievements: He was an Associate Editor for Genome Research and is currently an editor for Molecular Reproduction and Development, Molecular Biology and Evolution, and Journal of Molecular Evolution.

R. Michael Roberts, Ph.D.
(President's Symposium)

Position: R. Michael Roberts, Ph.D., is a Curators' Professor at the University of Missouri with appointments in Animal Sciences, Biochemistry, and Veterinary Pathobiology. He is currently an investigator in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center at the University of Missouri.

Education: He received his B.A. and D.Phil. in Plant Sciences from Oxford University, England, but since the mid-1970s has worked primarily as a reproductive biologist.

Research: Dr. Roberts is best known for his work on uterine secretions and interferons. He has also studied the role of other unique trophoblast proteins in pregnancy and has (with colleague Jon Green) developed a commercialized pregnancy test for cattle. He made a major transition in research direction in 2003 and began to emphasize the use of human embryonic stem cells to study emergence and differentiation of the human trophoblast, and has made contributions to the culture of such cells.

Achievements: Dr. Roberts was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1996 and has received several international awards, including the Milstein Prize for Research on interferons and the Wolf Prize for Agriculture (2003). Dr. Roberts also received the Carl G. Hartman Award (2006) from the Society for the Study of Reproduction. Roberts was Chief Scientist with the USDA's Competitive Grants Program (the National Research Initiative) from 1998-2000. He also served on the National Research Council's Committee that published recommendations to the Federal Drug Agency on concerns regarding the use of genetically modified animals for food (Animal Biotechnology: Science Based Concerns, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.) and chaired the NRC committee that investigated Animal Care & Management at the National Zoo.

Nathaniel Comfort, Ph.D.
(President's Symposium)

Position: Nathaniel Comfort is a professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, where he has been on the faculty since 2003. Education: From 1997 to 2003, he was on the history faculty at The George Washington University, where he also served as Deputy Director of the Center for History of Recent Science. Prior to that, he served as the science writer for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and before that he studied marine and neurobiology and animal behavior.

Education: In 1997, Dr. Comfort earned his Ph.D. in history from the State University at Stony Brook.

Research: Dr. Comfort's scholarly interests include the histories of genetics, genomics, eugenics, and modern medicine; his personal interests are rock-climbing, martial arts, blues guitar, and dogs. His books include The Science of Human Perfection: How Genes Became the Heart of American Medicine (Yale, 2012), The Tangled Field: Barbara McClintock's Search for the Patterns of Genetic Control (Harvard, 2001), and the edited volume, The Panda's Black Box: Opening Up the Intelligent Design Debate (Johns Hopkins, 2007).

Achievements: He is a regular reviewer for Nature and has published with Natural History, the New York Times Book Review, National Public Radio, Science, New Scientist, The Believer, and elsewhere. He blogs at and tweets from @nccomfort. His next book will be a biography of DNA.

Gautam Chaudhuri, M.D., Ph.D.
(ASRM Distinguished Research Scientist Exchange Lecture)

Position: Dr. Chaudhuri is Chair and Professor in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Education: Dr. Gautam Chaudhuri completed his M.B.B.S. from R.G.Kar Medical College, Kolkata; his M.D. from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, India; and subsequently received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from London University under the mentorship of Late Professor Sir John Vane, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1982. Dr. Chaudhuri was the first to propose that the intra-uterine contraceptive device (IUD) acted by releasing prostaglandins and that NSAID-like indomethacin prevented such a release. This explained why the IUD, in addition to its contraceptive action, has different actions in different species. This was subsequently confirmed by other investigators, and NSAIDs have subsequently been used to reduce IUD-induced menorrhagia and expulsion of IUD following its insertion.

After this work, Dr. Chaudhuri completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and then joined UCLA to do a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Following completion of this, he joined the department as full-time faculty. Since joining UCLA, he has published extensively on the action of sex steroids and nitric oxide. Dr. Chaudhuri, together with Lou Ignarro, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology at UCLA and a Nobel Laureate, was a member of one of the first groups to demonstrate that endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF) is nitric oxide (NO). Dr. Chaudhuri was responsible for the pharmacological identification of EDRF as NO, and Professor Ignarro was responsible for its chemical identification. Dr. Ignarro shared the Nobel Prize for the chemical identification of EDRF as NO.

Research: Dr. Chaudhuri has made significant contributions to understanding factors that control vascular tone, effect of estrogens on atherosclerosis, and biology of cancer (especially breast cancer). His current work includes the mechanism as to how cancer cells generate ATP, the etiology of pre-eclampsia and the role of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) in this process. Dr. Chaudhuri's clinical work is focused on general gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility, although he still takes calls in obstetrics when required.

Achievements: Dr. Chaudhuri has been awarded the President’s Distinguished Scientist Award by the Society for Gynecologic Investigation USA, the premiere scientific society for gynecologists, and was recently inducted into the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as a Fellow ad euendum. Dr. Chaudhuri has served as the Chair of the Steering Committee for the Obstetrics Pharmacology Research Unit for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and as Chair of the Maternal-Fetal Study Section of the NICHD. He has been a member of the Human Embryology and Development Study Section of the NIH, and subsequently a member of the Council of NICHD.

Satoshi Namekawa, Ph.D.
(SSR New Investigator Exchange Lecture)

Position: Satoshi Namekawa, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Division of Reproductive Sciences at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Education: Satoshi Namekawa received his Ph.D. from Tokyo University of Science in 2005, and completed his postdoc training in 2009 under the mentorship of Jeannie T. Lee at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. During his postdoc training, he was awarded the JSPS postdoctoral fellowship and subsequently the Charles A. King Trust postdoctoral fellowship. In 2009, he joined the faculty at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Research: Dr. Namekawa's laboratory studies the epigenetic events in the male germline and has revealed fundamental mechanisms governing the sex chromosomes. He demonstrated that DNA damage response pathways trigger both gene silencing and activation of the sex chromosomes in the male germline. Furthermore, he demonstrated that epigenetic mechanisms impact the genomic evolution of mammalian sex chromosomes. He recently embarked on the study of the epigenome in spermatogenesis. His study will reveal fundamental epigenetic mechanisms in the male germline and help illuminate various reproductive issues including male infertility and birth defects.

Achievements: Dr. Namekawa's work has been funded by NIH R01 Award and Research Grant from March of Dimes Foundation. He received the Basil O’Connor Award from March of Dimes Foundation.

Ryuzo Yanagimachi, Ph.D.
(Heritage Luncheon)

Dr. Ryuzo Yanagimachi, of the University of Hawaii School of Medicine, will be speaking at the 2015 Heritage Luncheon. The talk, titled " M. C. Chang, Grandfather of IVF," will be honoring the late Dr. M.C. Chang. Dr. Chang helped to revolutionize birth control through his involvement in developing "the pill," and conducted ground-breaking research proving the viability of in vitro fertilization. He published nearly 350 articles in scientific journals and was a member of the Society for the Study of Reproduction. Dr. Yanagimachi worked as a post-doctoral student with Dr. Chang at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.





Susan Taymans, Ph.D.
(NIH Mock Study Section and Policy Seminar)

Position: As a Program Director in the Fertility and Infertility Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH, Susan Taymans, Ph.D., oversees the Reproductive Genetics and Epigenetics portfolio and the Basic Ovarian Biology portfolio. These portfolios encompass research in sex determination, the genetics of reproductive aging, infertility genetics, and non-Mendelian inheritance in reproduction; and follicle endowment, follicle and oocyte development, ovulation, luteal function, and ovarian pathologies that affect fertility. She manages the branch's T32 training grants and is the Co-Chair of NICHD’s Training Policy Committee.

Education: Dr. Taymans received her doctorate in Molecular Endocrinology from the University of Maryland. She held pre- and post-doctoral Intramural Research Training Award positions in the NICHD intramural program before coming to the extramural NICHD community.

Research: Dr. Taymans' research background is in molecular endocrinology, endocrine genetics, and positional cloning.

Louis DePaolo, Ph.D.
(NIH Mock Study Section and Policy Seminar)

Position: Dr. Louis DePaolo is Chief of the Fertility and Infertility Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). In this role, Dr. DePaolo provides oversight leadership of the institute’s portfolio of grants dealing with basic, translational, and clinical studies in male and female fertility regulation. The branch is the single largest funding source for research and research training programs dealing with reproduction and infertility in the Federal Government, providing support for nearly 300 grant awards totaling approximately 90 million dollars.

Education: Dr. DePaolo received his doctorate degree in Physiology from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and held faculty appointments at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio (tenured), and the Salk and Whittier Institutes in California. During this period, Dr. DePaolo received research, research training, and career development support from the National Institutes of Health resulting in the publication of more than 60 papers on the neuroendocrine control of reproduction.

Research and Achievements: Since joining the NICHD in 1994, Dr. DePaolo has established the Reproductive Neuroendocrinology and Ovarian Biology Programs, as well as the National Centers for Translational Research in Reproduction and Infertility (NCTRI), and the Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program (CIR-LRP) which became the first NIH extramural loan forgiveness program. Dr. DePaolo also developed an interagency "Dual-Purpose, Dual-Benefit" (DP/DB) program with the United States Department of Agriculture to support research that addresses both biomedicine and agriculture using large animal models.

On the international front, Dr. DePaolo has established a Visiting Scientist Training Award (VSTA) Program with the South Korean government to allow Korean fellows and early faculty members to receive training in reproductive epidemiology and population surveillance at the NICHD. In this regard, Dr. DePaolo was a member of the U.S. delegation to Korea for the 2010 U.S.-Korea Joint Commission Meeting sponsored by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Finally, under his leadership, branch staff have initiated programs aimed at increasing workforce diversity in the reproductive sciences and enhancing community outreach and education efforts.

Gary Hunnicutt, Ph.D.
(NIH Mock Study Section)

Position: Dr. Gary R. Hunnicutt is the Scientific Review Officer for the Cellular, Molecular, and Integrative Reproduction (CMIR) study section for the National Institutes of Health.

Education: Dr. Hunnicutt is a reproductive biologist who obtained his doctorate degree at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and was a Senior Scientist for many years for the Population Council at Rockefeller University before moving to the NIH.

Research: The CMIR study section reviews research applications done in model organisms through studies involving humans. Areas of research covered include: ovarian and testicular biology, primordial germ cells, oogenesis, spermatogenesis, meiosis, capacitation, acrosome reaction, fertilization, contraception, gamete cryopreservation, artificial reproductive technologies, zygotic gene activation, epigenetic imprinting, pre-implantation embryos, and uterine receptivity. Dr. Hunnicutt encourages all qualifying new investigators to apply for the Early Career Reviewer program.

Thaddeus T. Schug, Ph.D.
(NIH Policy Seminar)

Position and Research: Dr. Thaddeus (Thad) Schug is a health scientist administrator in the Population Health Branch of the extramural division at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), where he oversees programs in the scientific areas of male and female reproduction, metabolism, and the development and disruption of the endocrine systems. He also has interest in projects associated with green chemistry.

Education: Dr. Schug received his doctorate in nutrition and biomedical sciences from Cornell University. His graduate work focused on the relationships between nuclear hormone receptor activation and various forms of cancer. He conducted his postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH/NIEHS). At NIH, he investigated the sirtuin family of genes, which are involved in the aging process, homeostasis, metabolism, and inflammation.


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