The SSR Distinguished Fellowship recognizes active SSR members for their outstanding contributions to the field of reproductive biology and to the Society, illustrated by sustained high impact research, leadership, service and mentorship.

The SSR Congratulates the 2023 Distinguished Fellows!

Francesco DeMayo, PhD

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Biography

Dr. Francesco J DeMayo is Senior Principal Investigator and Chief of the Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory (RDBL), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Research (NIEHS) Triangle Park, North Carolina. After completing his undergraduate training from Cornell University, he received his MS and PhD degrees in Physiology from Michigan State University, East Lansing MI.

He then moved to Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, where he conducted his postdoctoral research in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, at a time when transgenic mouse technology was rapidly emerging as the new frontier in developmental biology, cancer biology and physiology. Here, he became an Assistant Professor and subsequently rose to the Full Professor rank in 2002. While at Baylor College of Medicine, he was honored with the Gordon Cain Professorship in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology )2006-2014)Dan L. Duncan Endowed Professorship at the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center (2011-2014), and The Cullen-Duncan-McAshan Endowed Chair in Cancer Research (2014-2015). In 2015, he moved to the NIEHS as Senior Principal Investigator and Deputy Chief of the RDBL branch and became the Chief of the RDBL branch in 2017. He served as the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) Board Member (2012-2013) and President (2020-2021).

Dr. DeMayo and his colleagues continue to conduct mechanistic research identifying Progesterone Receptor signaling pathways in vivo in the mouse and in vitro using primary human endometrial stroma cells and uterine epithelial organoids. Combining the gene ablation/knockdown approach and transcriptomic approaches his laboratory has elucidated the role of PR-mediated signaling in uterine receptivity, early pregnancy and in the regulation of myometrial contractility during parturition. He has exploited spatial transcriptomics to establish and atlas of the uterine microenvironment at pregnancy day 7.5. Overall, he has published more than 350 peer-reviewed publications. Besides these, he has published many authoritative reviews and chapters in text books that are extensively cited.

Dr. DeMayo mentored numerous undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral fellows and served as a member on PhD thesis committees of several students. He served on many NIH and international grant review panels and chaired some of these panels. He served on editorial boards of many journals. He was the Associate Editor of Molecular Endocrinology (2008-2013) and co-Editor-in-Chief of Biology of Reproduction (2013-2017). He delivered more than 150 invited seminars all over the world and has organized and/or Chaired many meetings/symposia. In collaboration with Dr John McCarrey the Mammalian Reproduction Gordon Research Conference was established. Until he moved to NIEHS, Dr. DeMayo’s research was continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Patricia Morris, PhD

The Rockefeller University

Biography

I am a Senior Scientist at Chromocell Biopharma and guest Investigator in the Laboratory of RNA Molecular Biology, Rockefeller University, NY. Formerly, I was Executive Director, R&D, Reproductive Health (RH), and Senior Scientist (Professor), Population Council. I am an Associate Editor and Series Editor for a collection of expert reviews on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in FASEB Journal.

My background is in Pharmacology and Physiology, with my doctorate from the New York University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and the Abby Mauze Rockefeller postdoctoral fellowship in Endocrinology, Cornell University Medical College. Following my first appointment as an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, Fairleigh Dickinson School of Dentistry, I have spent my scientific research career as the Principal Investigator and Head of the Laboratory of Mechanisms in Reproductive Health (RH), Population Council. I served as Co-Director for two NICHD P50/U54 Specialized Centers in male infertility and female contraception, respectively. My R&D program in male and female reproduction received continuous independent NIH funding for 30+ years.

My research focuses on understanding molecular regulatory mechanisms in (in)fertility, contraceptive development, sexual and reproductive health. My translational research seeks to understand signaling mechanisms underlying transcriptional and translational control of spermatogenesis, growth factor and cytokine paracrine regulation of germ cell development, and testicular and oocyte modifications mediated by tyrosine kinases, JAK-STAT and SUMO pathways.

I have been honored to serve as both the Council’s Director of RH Fellowship Programs and as a long-standing mentor for clinical and basic postdoctoral and early career researchers, including physician-scientists, biomedical and veterinary fellows. Together with an expert lab and core facility staff, several dozens of undergraduates from historically underrepresented communities and fellows from developing countries were mentored and provided with a reproductive research training.

I have a long record of service to SSR and reproductive community writ large. I am a career-long SSR member, participating in annual meetings, including on several trainee panels and twice as Chair of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and a member (2010-present). From 2010-19, I represented SSR on the Board of Directors for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Continuing this service, I’ve been elected to several FASEB’s leadership positions: Executive, DEI, and PAC Committees, and as VP-Science Policy and President.

As SSR’s rep, I have been proactive on FASEB’s initiatives for its 28-member scientific societies in Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion as well as leading a new One Health initiative. I recently convened two virtual conferences on climate change, water and soil quality and health, and a panel with bio-geoscientists on EDCs and ecosystem health.

In service to the community, I served as a consultant with Gates Foundation and WHO to landscape priorities to advance innovations in family planning. I served as a member of two standing NIH scientific review panels, including Chair, Reproduction, Andrology and Gynecology and as Chair on several NIH panels for Specialized Centers of Reproduction. My peer review service includes 120+ panels.

I am a senior scientific advisor to a non-profit developing an innovative cure for AIDs.

Michael Soares, PhD

University of Kansas Medical Center

Biography

Dr. Soares received his undergraduate training at California State University, Chico where he received a B.A. degree in Psychology in 1976 and was engaged in research with William Kalberer and Michael J. Erpino. In 1981, Dr. Soares completed his Ph.D. degree in Reproductive Biology at the University of Hawaii under the guidance of Joan C. Hoffmann and a supportive mentoring environment, including Vincent J. DeFeo, Walter K. Morishige, and Ryuzo Yanagimachi. Dr. Soares received postdoctoral training at the University of California, Santa Cruz with Frank Talamantes (1981-1983) and at Baylor College of Medicine with Stanley R. Glasser (1983-1984). Dr. Soares was recruited by Gilbert S. Greenwald to the faculty at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) in 1984. He is currently a University Distinguished Professor with appointments in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology and serves as Director of the Institute for Reproductive and Developmental Sciences at KUMC and Director of Perinatal Research at Children’s Mercy Research Institute-Kansas City. Dr. Soares has directly supervised the training of twelve graduate students, forty-seven postdoctoral fellows, and five maternal-fetal medicine fellows, and he has mentored seven junior faculty. Dr. Soares’ research has been continuously supported by the NIH since 1986 and has produced 260 peer-reviewed reports, three edited books, and two monographs.

Dr. Soares’ Laboratory investigates specialized survival strategies used by the embryo as it grows within the uterus. Central to the embryo’s survival is the formation of the placenta. This organ gains access to the maternal blood supply and facilitates the delivery of nutrients to the fetus. Dr. Soares’ Laboratory studies how early stem cells develop into the placenta. They have established innovative in vitro and in vivo model systems for investigating conserved mechanisms regulating trophoblast cell differentiation and placental development. Through their efforts we have learned that the placenta develops in response to cues present in the maternal environment; and obstetrical complications, such as preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, and pre-term birth result when the embryo is not successful in its adaptations to the maternal environment. Dr. Soares’ Laboratory’s seminal research contributions to the reproductive sciences have been recognized by the University of Kansas, the International Federation of Placental Associations, and the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) with prestigious research awards.

Dr. Soares joined the SSR as a graduate student 1980 and attended his first SSR meeting that year at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In subsequent years, Dr. Soares and his research group have been active participants at annual SSR meetings. Dr. Soares served as a member of the Biology of Reproduction Editorial Board (1990-1995) and a member of its Board of Reviewing Editors (2005-2013). He served on the Annual Meeting Program Committee several times (1996-2002; 2005-2006, 2017-2018, 2023-2024), the Publication Committee (2001-2002), the Strategic Planning Subcommittee (2003), and the Nominating Committee (2005-2006, 2010- 2012, chair, 2011-2012). In 2013, Dr. Soares was elected as a Director of the SSR Board (2013-2016). Dr. Soares continues to be a strong advocate of the SSR.

Monika Ward, PhD

University of Hawaii

Biography

Dr. Ward is a Professor at the Institute for Biogenesis Research (IBR), John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) at the University of Hawaii. She received M.S and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Poznan, Poland. In 1999 she was recruited to join Ryuzo Yanagimachi (Yana) in the IBR as a post-doctoral fellow. She established her independent laboratory in the IBR in 2003 and rose through the ranks obtaining a professor position in 2015.

Dr. Ward has been working in the field of reproductive and developmental biology and genetics of male infertility for over 20 years. Her research focus is on spermatogenesis, male fertility/infertility, and assisted reproduction. In recent years her primary interest has been on the genetic aspects of spermatogenesis, and particularly on the role on Y chromosome encoded genes in spermatogenesis and sperm function. The findings from her laboratory highlighted the roles of mouse Y genes in meiotic progression, post-meiotic chromatin remodeling, and sperm formation. Her group also identified the minimum Y chromosome complement necessary for successful assisted reproduction and has shown that the function of these ‘minimal’ genes can be replaced by genetic manipulation of genes encoded on other chromosomes. Her research program is funded by grants from National Institute of Health and Hawaii Community Foundation.

Dr. Ward is an active member of several international societies, including the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR), the American Society of Andrology (ASA) and the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB), and has held committee positions within these societies. She has been a standing member on the NIH CMIR study section, an ad hoc member of other NIH and international agencies grant review panels and served on the Editorial Board of Andrology. She successfully organized or co-organized scientific conferences, including Gordon Research Conference on Germinal Stem Cell Biology (2017 and 2019) and International Symposium on the Biology of Vertebrate Sex Determination (2018, 2021 and 2023). At the University of Hawaii Dr. Ward is a chair of the Developmental and Reproductive Biology graduate program, one of the few graduate programs within the USA that offer MS and PhD degrees in reproductive biology and provide students with theory and hands-on training in this field. She is involved in teaching and training undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral fellows and Junior Faculty.

The SSR is Dr. Ward’s ‘home society’ and it played a vital role in her career development. She has been an active member of SSR since 2001, is a regular attendee at the annual meetings, and has served multiple times as an abstract reviewer, session chair, and session organizer. She was a member of a local arrangement committee for the SSR 2008 annual meeting and a member of Program Committee (2010-2013). She was on the SSR Board of Directors (2017-2020). At present, she serves as an Associate Editor for Biology of Reproduction journal, a member of SSR Virtual Education Committee, and a Co-Chair of SSR 2024 Program Committee.

Wei Yan, MD, PhD

The Lindquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center

Biography

Dr. Wei Yan is Senior Investigator at The Lindquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Professor of Medicine at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He received his M.D. from China Medical University and Ph.D. from University of Turku in Finland. After post-doc training at Baylor College of Medicine, he started his independent research as an Assistant Professor at University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) in 2004. In the subsequent sixteen years at UNR Med, he moved up the ranks and became a full professor in 2013. In 2016, he was named the UNR Foundation Professor, the highest honor the University bestows upon its faculty.

Dr. Yan’s research interests lie in genetic and epigenetic control of fertility and contributions of the gametic epigenome to fertilization, development and adulthood health. Dr. Yan pioneered the development of the germ cell small noncoding RNA field, added new knowledge to the molecular regulation of fertility, especially in the areas of sperm assembly during late spermiogenesis and physiological functions of motile cilia in reproductive tracts, and promoted the translation of basic research findings into non-hormonal contraceptive development. He was also among people who developed and tested the hypothesis that gametic small RNAs mediate epigenetic inheritance. Dr. Yan has published more than 150 papers in impactful journals. He received numerous academic awards, including the 2009 Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) Young Investigator Award, the 2012 American Society of Andrology (ASA) Young Andrologist Award, the 2013 Nevada Healthcare Hero Award for Research and Technology, the 2017 University of Nevada, Reno Outstanding Researcher Award, the 2018 SSR Research Award and the 2020 Nevada System of Higher Education Regents’ Research Award (mid-career). He was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2017.

Dr. Yan has mentored six junior faculty members and trained twenty post-docs and thirty-one graduate students so far. He served on the SSR Program Committee (2007, 2014, and 2016), the SSR Awards Committee (2015-2018), the Board of Reviewing Editors of Biology of Reproduction (BOR) (2009-2013), and as Associate Editor (2013-2017) and co-Editor-in-Chief of BOR (2017-2021). He is currently serving on the ASA Board of Directors (2022-2025) and the Executive Committee of the North America Testis Workshop (NATW). He co-chaired the 2019 ASA annual meeting and the 2022 XXVI NATW.

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