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Alumni Spotlight on Leah Simon

CRS’s incredible and multidisciplinary range of faculty, scientists and trainees was the most valuable aspect to me. ”

Leah Simon, MS

Leah Simon, MS is an alumna of the MS-RSM program, class of 2019. Her thesis research, mentored by Dr. Francesca Duncan, PhD, was focused on examining age-specific fully- and hypo-glycosylated follicle stimulating hormone glycoforms in the mouse ovarian follicles. Leah is now a doctoral student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Learn more about Leah's work and her MS-RSM and CRS reflections.


Name: Leah Simon, MS

MS-RSM Class of 2019

Thesis mentor: Dr. Francesca Duncan, PhD

Thesis title: Age-specific fully- and hypo-glycosylated follicle stimulating hormone glycoforms are bioactive in isolated murine secondary follicles


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

I graduated from the Masters in Reproductive Science program in 2019. During my masters I completed an independent thesis with Dr. Francesca Duncan. Following this, I worked as a research technologist in Dr. Teresa’s Woodruff’s lab for a year. I am currently a first year PhD student.

Could you describe your current research/studies?

I am currently a first year PhD student in the Biomedical and Biological Sciences program at Cornell University. I deferred a semester due to the pandemic and so I am in my first rotation (in the lab of Dr. Paula Cohen, working on male contraception strategies) while undertaking coursework.

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

CRS’s incredible and multidisciplinary range of faculty, scientists and trainees was the most valuable aspect to me. As a young trainee with no knowledge of the field of reproductive biology, CRS provided me with numerous opportunities to network with pioneers in the field – whether it be at various seminar series, symposiums, or social events.

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

The MS-RSM program was the most valuable aspect to my training. Completing a thesis-based masters was a great way for setting expectations for graduate school, as the thesis-track of MS-RSM is designed to mimic a PhD in 18 months. I gained experience with writing and defending a research proposal, forming a thesis committee, and interacting and collaborating with senior scientists, performing independent research, and writing and defending a thesis. Extra perks included presenting research at multiple conferences, both at Northwestern and externally, and publishing!

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

I think many young scientists do not realize the privilege of conducting science in a bubble as trainees. It is perhaps the very few years in a researcher’s career where one can make mistakes without dire consequences, use negative data as results and just really enjoy science. As scientists we are inherently wired to become too invested in our work and while that passion and drive makes for an amazing scientist, internalizing the negative and sometimes exhausting nature of research can take away from the learning opportunities that are so readily available to trainees. I would definitely recommend young scientists to utilize the opportunities around them (and ask all the dumb questions your heart desires) while enjoying stress-free research.

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

Without sounding too biased – male contraceptive strategies! Women currently bear most of the financial and health-related burdens of contraception. On the other hand, men also have limited reproductive independence as the lack of effective and reversible options for men force them to largely rely on their partners for contraception. With readily available long-acting, reversible contraceptives for men, the hope is to provide gender equity in the responsibility for family planning, while also developing safe, effective, and affordable contraception.

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

One of my favorite times of the year were the three days of the Oncofertility Consortium. It was always 3 days of amazing science from outstanding scientists, interspersed with so many networking and presentation opportunities.