CRS Alumni Spotlight on Nan Zhang
Dr. Nan Zhang, PhD, is a CRS trainee alum. Dr. Zhang is a former postdoctoral fellow of Dr. Teresa Woodruff's lab and is currently a embryologist at Stanford Children's Hospital in California. His work focuses on reproductive research and fertility treatments.
What is your connection to the CRS community (mentor and position) and what is your current position?
I did my postdoc training in Dr. Teresa Woodruff’s lab from 2014 to 2017. Working with Dr. Woodruff and getting involved with the CRS community which hosts many diverse and broad scientific pioneers in reproductive field has been an eye opening experience. I am now working as an embryologist in Stanford Children’s Hospital.
Could you describe your current research?
Currently, I mainly work as medical professional/scientist in clinics. I focus on reproductive research and fertility treatments. I am responsible for running fertility test, harvesting eggs and sperm and perform various in vitro fertilization procedures for patients who have social or medical problems with fertility.
What aspect(s) of CRS did you find most valuable?
CRS is like a big family. When I worked as a postdoc in Northwestern, Dr. Woodruff and Dr. Thomas O’Halloran encouraged innovative research which requires strong interdisciplinary collaboration work. CRS provides a perfect platform for scientists to get stimulated from their peers who works in different fields. They have many interactive means to engage its members and students and challenge them to become a better scientist. It has been a very rewarding experience working in the CRS community and therefore it catalyzed many original and innovative work in northwestern.
What has been the most valuable aspect to your training as a reproductive scientist in CRS?
The most valuable aspect of CRS community is its commitment not only for top science discoveries but also for nurturing the future scientists. It has established structure and network that help young scientists to grow. CRS community is composed of many great science labs which focus on different topics in reproductive science. For example, while my background is from oocytes and egg activation in mammalian system but I learned lots of valuable knowledge outside of my comfort zone because of my interaction with other CRS members, such as epigenetic, follicle development, myeloma and inorganic biochemistry. These information enabled me to think from a bigger picture and develop a more comprehensive scientific vision.
What would you recommend to junior scientists in order for them succeed in their scientific careers?
Do something that you really find your enthusiasm in. Sometimes the topic may be out of your comfort zone. But don’t be intimidated by the seemingly hardships, because once you decided to pursue your true interests, you will be amazed how much energy you have and how much you can learn in a short period of time in order to push your project forward. Also, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. I remember when I wrote my K99 grant, part of the grant involves several experimental designs in epigenetic field. Fortunately, we have several professors who were very knowledgeable in these fields and they provided great amount of suggestions and ideas after I reached out to them.
What do you think will be the next big contribution in the reproductive biology field?
Gene editing with better precision and higher efficiency in mammalian system will be a big thing in reproductive field as it has a great value for medical application. A lot needs to be studied and learned about this process in order to improve it to the level that human medicine can utilize it.
Do you have any notable stories from your time in CRS?
CRS has always focused on its trainee’s development and growth. For example, the mini-symposium on reproductive biology is an annual event that is mainly organized by CRS students and trainees. I was lucky to participate this event not only as an audience but also as an organizing committee member. I consider it a valuable experience for me to work with other committee members to orchestrate the meeting and host the visiting scholars.