Reproductive Science and Medicine

Program Description:
Reproductive science and medicine encompasses the study of endocrinology, gonad development, gametogenesis and embryogenesis, and reproductive tract biology.  These areas of research influence health and disease, as they are fundamental to our understanding of fertility and infertility, contraception, infectious diseases, pregnancy, fetal origins of adult disease, and trans-generational epigenetic inheritance.   In addition, reproductive science has broad general health consequences because it is well known that gonadal hormones regulate sexual, bone, cardiovascular, immune, and cognitive functions.

Northwestern University is at the forefront of reproductive research, medicine, and technology. The Center for Reproductive Science (CRS) at Northwestern University was formed in 1987 and currently consists of almost 200 faculty members and 100 trainees across basic science and clinical departments. As a group, these researchers have received millions of dollars in research funding from government agencies and private foundations - enabling significant inroads into research on reproductive hormone signaling mechanisms, reproductive tract conditions, infectious diseases, determinants of gamete quality, ex vivo integrated reproductive tract systems, and ovarian cancer.  

Students in the Reproductive Science and Medicine cluster will partake in these research endeavors, can elect to partake in reproductive-focused courses, and will have full access to a wide away of programs offered through the CRS.

Courses: Although this cluster does not require specific coursework, we offer brand new courses focused on human reproductive health that RSM cluster members are encouraged to take.

REPR_SCI 406: Human Reproductive Development - Fall, every year
This is a lecture and critical thinking-based course designed to challenge students with foundational and contemporary concepts in reproductive science and to create context for future research problems and bench solutions. Topics covered include male and female sex determination, ovary and testis development, gametogenesis, meiosis, fertilization, pre-implantation embryo development, implantation, and placentation. For each topic, didactics will include core textual readings together with analysis of 1) a classic paper which represents a paradigm shift in thinking, 2) a recent paper that updates the field, 3) a controversial paper that challenges present knowledge, 4) and a paper likely to become the next ‘classic’ for the reproductive science student of the future.  Students are asked to think critically about how problems are identified, what technologies exist or must be created to approach/answer the question, and what specific hurdles limit or slow reproductive science based on external factors (e.g. federal/global law, ethical issues, funding). Communicating reproductive science is an explicit skill that will be developed in this course.

REPR_SCI 420: Human Reproductive Health and Disease - Winter, every year
This course is designed to examine the disorders of reproduction, with an emphasis on human, and current therapeutic approaches. The course is organized around the key topics of female reproductive tissues, male reproductive tissues, infertility, reproductive aging, mood disorders related to reproductive processes, and sexually transmitted diseases. Experts who are active in research and patient care will present the disorders covered this quarter. Discussions will include the pathology, molecular pathways, cellular behavior, organ function, treatments, and the current status of research in each topic.

REPR_SCI 411: Reproductive Endocrinology and Fertility Management - Spring, every year
This course is designed to explore the molecular basis of hormone action and management of fertility in humans. The 20th century starts with the isolation of steroids and ends with the elucidation of the detailed molecular pathways by which reproductive hormones regulate gene expression to affect the physiological function and behavior of the individual. In the latter half of the 20th century, physicians and scientists created the new field of assisted reproduction technologies. Discoveries in reproductive endocrinology have pioneered concepts adopted across biology, lead to some of the most common medications used today, been celebrated with Nobel prizes, and sparked social revolutions that are still debated. Endocrinology topics include logic of endocrine systems, hypothalamic pituitary axes, gonadal steroid receptors and the nuclear receptor superfamily, signaling mechanisms, and environmental endocrine disruption. Fertility management includes components of fertility, contraception, assisted reproductive technologies, and applications of stem cells and regenerative medicine. The course culminates in a student debate on the ethical and societal consequences of applying science to human fertility management.

REPR_SCI 450: Presentations in Reproductive Science and Medicine - Fall, Winter, Spring, every year
This course is designed to support student scientific and professional development. Students will learn critical skills for successful graduate and professional careers in research, including how to perform literature searches and index citations, deliver research presentations, and critically read and analyze the scientific literature. Students will demonstrate competency through reading and presenting scientific papers to peers.

Training Opportunities:

  1. Reproductive Research Updates. Each week for over 30 years, the CRS has hosted Reproductive Research Updates (formerly called Reproductive Research Reports) - a forum in which CRS trainees present their research to Northwestern scientists across the Evanston and Chicago campuses as well as the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute.  Starting in 2016, professional development and core facility presentations are integrated in the schedule to build on the theme of making reproductive science and medicine visible, viable, and valuable across Northwestern.
  2. Translational Lectures in Reproductive Science. This seminar series takes place monthly and includes lectures by luminaries in the field of reproductive science and medicine.
  3. The Reproductive Science and Medicine Summit. This annual event (formerly called CRS Mini-symposium) showcases reproductive science and medicine research conducted at Northwestern and surrounding Chicago area institutions. An organizing committee composed of CRS trainees is central to the success of this event. The summit includes a keynote address, internal and external speakers, and trainee oral and poster presentations.  Trainee and travel awards for this event have been funded through the Constance Campbell Memorial Fund since 1989.
  4. The Illinois Symposium on Reproductive Science (ISRS).  This annual regional meeting offers a unique opportunity for graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and clinical fellows in the reproductive sciences to plan a meeting and present their research to their peers and senior scientists from across Illinois.  The meeting is hosted by a rotation of Illinois universities including Northwestern, UIUC, UIC, and Southern Illinois University (SIU). The goals of ISRS are to celebrate our strong research and educational heritage, to foster the exchange of scientific information in the reproductive sciences, to facilitate the training and career development of future reproductive scientists, and to leverage our collective institutional strengths to maintain Illinois in a preeminent nationwide position in this critical research field.

Cluster Director

  • Teresa Woodruff, PhD, Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Molecular Biosciences

A list of CRS Faculty Members may be found here: