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Alumni Spotlight on Emily Hayes

"The most valuable aspect of the CRS is the collaborative network of leading scientistsĀ and incredible traineesĀ in the field."”

Emily Hayes, MS

Emily Hayes is a graduate of the MS-RSM program, class of 2020. Her thesis research, mentored by Teresa Woodruff, PhD, focused on crosstalk between integrin signaling and the hippo and TGF-Beta pathways in juvenile murine ovaries. Emily recently completed her first year in medical school as a part of the MD/PhD program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). 

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Name: Emily Hayes

MS-RSM Class of 2020

Thesis Mentor: Teresa Woodruff, PhD

Thesis Title: Investigating the Crosstalk Between Integrin Signaling and the Hippo and TGF-Beta Pathways in Juvenile Murine Ovaries

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

I graduated from the MS-RSM in 2020 and completed my thesis in the lab of Dr. Teresa Woodruff. Currently, I just finished up my first year in medical school as a part of the MD/PhD program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).  

Could you describe your current research/studies? 

Right now, I am doing a summer rotation for my PhD in the lab of Dr. Carlos Stocco whose lab studies signaling pathways in ovarian follicles. Dr. Stocco was very interested in being able to culture individual follicles for his experiments looking at the role of certain proteins in fertility, so right now I am trying to optimize the technique in his lab and teach all the lab members! This is super cool that I get to directly bring what I learned in the MS-RSM lab course and the Woodruff lab to my current work at UIC.  

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

The most valuable aspect of the CRS is the collaborative network of leading scientists and incredible trainees in the field. I think that this kind of network in this niche field is rare. It allows for proximity of diverse minds and perspectives in reproduction that truly cultivates the development of bigger and better ideas; one of my favorite parts of training here was feeling encouraged and comfortable to approach other grad students, post-docs, techs, lab managers, and PIs to throw around ideas, ask for help, and seek advice and feedback. It kind of felt like I was being raised by a village, and I feel like I grew exponentially as a scientist because of all of the support.  

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

In addition to the incredible and supportive network, I think the most valuable aspect was the training and expectation to become as independent and autonomous as possible—from taking a grant-writing course and learning how to critically read literature and how to effectively manage experiments, to taking ownership of and seeing through from start to finish our thesis projects. Even though I had a strong background in research before joining, the MS-RSM made me 100x more ready to begin my PhD, whether it ends up being in reproduction or a slightly different field.  

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

I am but a junior scientist as well, so here is my advice that I give to undergrads, high school students, and anyone working in a lab for the first time. 1) Write everything down as though you are going to forget everything… because you will! This is the key to becoming as independent and helpful as possible when you still have very little idea what is going on. 2) Ask questions and be curious. Sometimes the people training you don’t remember what it’s like to be starting out, and forget to explain things that are second nature to them. And when you ask questions, you are actively synthesizing concepts in your head which helps you grow. A lot of your questions might feel “stupid” but they aren’t—and the people you are asking will (hopefully) appreciate that you are trying to learn and trying to get things right. 3) Don’t be too hard on yourself. Science is hard. And you will encounter a lot of really smart people and think, “I will never be that smart.” This is so normal to feel, but don’t compare someone else’s chapter 100 to your chapter 1. For me, it took about 5 years of working in a lab before things felt like they even really started to click. So, take it one step at a time and just focus on learning and growing as much as YOU can. And when in doubt, remind yourself about “why” you went into science in the first place (Hint: it probably has nothing to do with competing with/being smarter than others, winning awards, etc.!). 

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

Hopefully new treatments for gynecologic cancers! I also think someone will figure out what the initial trigger is that initiates primordial follicle activation! 

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

This prompt just brings back all of my cherished memories of the incredible people I met and the friends I made! One of the coolest things I got to do was to drive down to St. Louis with Emma Gargus and go into surgery to watch Dr. Sherman Silber weave together tiny squares of cryopreserved ovary tissue and implant this quilt into a cancer survivor to hopefully restore the patient’s fertility! It was super cool coming from the lab and getting to see Oncofertility being practiced in the clinic and impacting the life of a real patient.