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Alumni Spotlight on Dr. Miranda Bernhardt

Know that the time you spend getting to know your colleagues will be worth it. And also realize that we can’t predict the future, and career plans can take directions that you didn’t expect.”

Dr. Miranda Bernhardt, PhD

Dr. Miranda Bernhardt, PhD, is a CRS alumna, class of 2011. Her thesis research, mentored by Dr. Teresa Woodruff, PhD, was focused on zinc requirement for the establishment and maintenance of Metaphase II arrest in the mammalian oocyte. Dr. Bernhardt is now a Assistant Research Professor and Animal Production Core Director at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. Learn more about Dr. Bernhardt's work and her memories of CRS.

Name: Dr. Miranda Bernhardt, PhD

PhD Advisor: Dr. Teresa Woodruff, PhD

Thesis title: Zinc Is Required for Establishment and Maintenance of Metaphase II Arrest in the Mammalian Oocyte

Current Position: Assistant Research Professor & Animal Production Core Director at Washington State University


What is your connection to the CRS community (mentor and position) and what is your current position?

I started graduate school in 2005 (in IGP before it became DGP) and completed my PhD in Teresa Woodruff’s lab in 2011. I then moved to North Carolina for a postdoc with Carmen Williams at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and started at Washington State University in Pullman, WA as an Assistant Research Professor and Director of the Animal Production Core in 2017.

Could you describe your current research/studies?

WSU’s Animal Production Core provides services to support the generation and preservation of genetically modified animal models for investigators at WSU, as well as other institutions. We use CRISPR/Cas9-based gene editing in embryos to create custom gene-edited models, including knock-outs, knock-ins, fluorescent reporters, Cre-expressing models, locus deletions, and other modifications. Most of our current projects are in mice, but we’re working to expand to other species, including large animals. We also provide more traditional transgenic core services such as rederivation, embryo and sperm cryopreservation, IVF, ICSI, and other micromanipulation and embryo handling techniques. Core services are my main focus right now, but I’ve been starting to get some research going on my own as well. My current projects focus on mechanisms of egg activation and calcium regulation, but I’m also interested in how calcium and zinc dynamics work together to influence other aspects of oocyte physiology.

What aspect(s) of CRS did you find most valuable?

For me, having a strong community of reproductive biologists was extremely valuable. CRS taught me how important this community can be, and as I’ve progressed through different positions, looking at whether an institution has strong representation in reproduction has been an important consideration. I also appreciated having opportunities to present work-in-progress as a trainee and getting input from members of multiple labs with more diverse interests. It was generally a very collaborative environment. Being part of CRS, and especially being part of the Woodruff lab, also provided opportunities to participate team science, mentoring, and outreach activities that can be hard to come by in other places.

What has been the most valuable aspect to your training as a reproductive scientist in CRS?

I was lucky to be exposed to many areas of reproduction during my training. I think it helped me to become a more well-rounded reproductive biologist and to appreciate the importance of many different systems. CRS also gave me some great connections to begin building a professional network. The opportunity to attend the Frontiers in Reproduction (FIR) course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA was also very valuable. In my current position I use techniques I learned at FIR literally every day, and connections with faculty and students there have helped me identify career directions, develop collaborations, and learn about cutting-edge science. Northwestern and CRS have been very well-represented in FIR students and faculty, and I think these connections are very valuable.

What would you recommend to junior scientists in order for them succeed in their scientific careers?​

Take advantage of networking opportunities, both formal and informal. You never know when you’ll connect with someone who can help guide you along your path. It’s amazing how often that person you had a random conversation with at a CRS poster session / SSR trainee-mentor lunch / GRC happy hour will become a collaborator, mentor, or friend (or reviewer!) down the line. Reproductive biology is a tight-knit field, and the community values supporting trainees. Know that the time you spend getting to know your colleagues will be worth it. And also realize that we can’t predict the future, and career plans can take directions that you didn’t expect. Landing somewhere different than you envisioned shouldn’t be seen as a failure, and being open to different opportunities can give you flexibility to make adjustments as you go.

What do you think will be the next big contribution in the reproductive biology field?

Gene-editing plays a big role in my work, so I may be biased, but I’m excited to see how CRISPR-based technologies will continue to advance and become more efficient. Over the past ~5 years CRISPR/Cas9 has had a huge impact on the way we approach genome modification for generating animal models, and I’m sure these changes will continue to take shape.

Do you have any notable stories from your time in CRS?

The comradery with other grad students, lab members, and colleagues is what sticks out in my memories. Being able to share in the joy of those late-night breakthroughs and having people to laugh or cry with you when nothing seems to be going right helps you persevere. Science is hard. I think a lot of us are able to stick with it because of those human aspects.