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Alumni Spotlight on Dr. Susan Olalekan

My recommendation for junior scientists is to seek out secondary mentors who are interested in your growth as a scientist and advocate for you. ”

Dr. Susan Olalekan, PhD

Dr. Susan Olalekan, PhD is a former CRS alum who worked with Dr. J. Julie Kim, PhD and Dr. Teresa Woodruff, PhD on microphysiologic modeling of the female reproductive tract (FRT) and who's work contributed to the development of the EVATAR system. Dr. Olalekan is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago studying the microenvironment of metastatic ovarian cancer.

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Name: Dr. Susan Olalekan, PhD

Postdoctoral Advisor: Dr. J. Julie Kim, PhD

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago

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

I joined the CRS community in 2014 when I began working on the microphysiologic modeling of the female reproductive tract (FRT) project at Northwestern University led by Teresa Woodruff, PhD and Julie Kim, PhD. The goal of this project was to recapitulate the physiology of the FRT with the aim of enhancing the efficiency of toxicity testing in preclinical studies. I joined the team as a post-doctoral fellow and successfully developed an in vitro model of the human endometrium. Most importantly, this 3D model of the endometrium was integrated with other organs of the FRT on a microfluidic platform and mimicked the female menstrual cycle as shown in our Nature Communications publication. This work was recognized as research of the year by Chemical and Engineering news in 2017. I am currently a post-doctoral scholar in the Basu lab at the University of Chicago.

Could you describe your current research?

I use single cell RNA sequencing to elucidate the cell-types within the tumor microenvironment of metastatic ovarian cancer with an emphasis on infiltrating immune cells. Identifying the immune cell composition along with their transcriptomic signatures within ovarian cancer is crucial for understanding and advancing the treatment of this disease.

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

I found the R3 data club very useful.  The research presented each week kept me updated about new and exciting findings. I also received valuable input on my project since the meeting was well attended by PIs and trainees.

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

I learnt how to be an effective collaborator during my time in the center for reproductive science. This has allowed me to build long-term friendships and a network of scientists who are a great resource for me as I journey through my scientific career.

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

My recommendation for junior scientists is to seek out secondary mentors who are interested in your growth as a scientist and advocate for you. Always take advantage of opportunities to speak about your research and apply for every grant you can. Finally, take time to do the things you love.

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

I hope it is an immunotherapeutic cure for cancer.

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

The CRS holiday parties were always a good time with food and games.