Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Duncan Lab

Lab Members

Meet the Duncan Lab team members. We welcome requests for information about our work and collaboration opportunities.

Principal Investigator

 
Francesca E. Duncan

Francesca E. Duncan, PhD
f-duncan( at )northwestern.edu
Thomas J. Watkins Memorial Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Reproductive Science and Medicine)
312-503-2172
Dr. Duncan earned her doctorate in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed two post-doctoral fellowships in reproductive science - one in the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania and one in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University. Her first independent faculty appointment was as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She joined Northwestern University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in October 2017. Dr. Duncan is an active member of the Center for Reproductive Science, Master of Science in Reproductive Science and Medicine program, and the Oncofertility Consortium.
View Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine faculty profile

Research Assistant Professors

 
AubreyConverse

Aubrey Converse, PhD
Research Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Reproductive Science in Medicine)
Dr. Converse earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from The University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. Her Ph.D. work utilized fish models to examine the role of the dual membrane androgen receptor and zinc transporter ZIP9 in the ovary, specifically in granulosa cell apoptosis and egg zinc dynamics. Dr. Converse joined the Duncan Lab in 2021 as a postdoctoral fellow. While in the Duncan Lab, she will investigate how age-associated changes in hormone and intracellular signals modulate ovarian aging. In October of 2022, Dr. Converse was promoted to Research Assistant Professor in the Division of Reproductive Science in Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Hoi ChangLee

Hoi Chang Lee, PhD
Research Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Reproductive Science in Medicine)
Dr. Hoi Chang Lee earned his Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Animal Biotechnology & Biomedical Sciences. During his thesis study, his research focused on understanding the mechanisms of calcium signaling and channel pathway during fertilization. He completed post-doctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University where he has broadened his research interests and expertise to include mammalian ovarian follicle biology, zinc biochemistry, and Oncofertility. In 2020, he was promoted to Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University. He joined the laboratory of Dr. Francesca E. Duncan in 2020 and his current projects focus on reproductive aging and discovering novel targets for contraceptive development using the oocyte.

Lab Manager

 
KatyTrotter

Katy Trotter, MS
Research Lab Manager I
Katy earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular and Structural Biochemistry at North Carolina State University in 2018. During her undergraduate career, she worked with Dr. April Fogleman to better understand attitudes and common knowledge regarding breastfeeding and infant nutrition, introducing her to the field of maternal and fetal health. After graduation, Katy worked at Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC in the neonatal ICU before earning a Master of Science in Reproductive Science and Medicine from Northwestern University. Katy joined Dr. Julie Kim's lab in 2021 to develop a microfluidic in vitro model of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) alongside Dr. Hannes Campo, Sarah Wagner, and Asia Ingram.

Postdoctoral Fellows

 
FarnersAmargant

Farners Amargant, PhD
Dr. Amargant has earned a Masters in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biomedicine from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and her industrial doctorate in Biomedicine from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Her PhD research focused on the characterization of the human sperm centrosome and its role in (in)fertility that she carried out at the Center for Genomic Regulation (Dr. Isabelle Vernos) and at Clinica Eugin (fertility clinic – Dr. Rita Vassena). Farners joined the Duncan Lab in 2018 as a post-doctoral scholar. In the Duncan lab her research focuses on understanding several mechanisms underlying reproductive aging, specifically in the stroma and in the oocyte.

HannesCampo

Hannes Campo, PhD
Dr. Campo graduated as a bioengineer from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, earning a bachelor of Bioscience Engineering and a master in Biomolecular Engineering. He received his PhD at the Universitat de València where he used tissue-engineering techniques to create natural biomaterials from whole uteri and endometrial tissue to improve standard culture methods used in reproductive science. His research interest focuses on using bioengineering and microfluidics to create physiological relevant in vitro models of the female reproductive tract. He joined to Duncan lab to elucidate the broad effects of non-hormonal anti-conceptive compounds on an in-house developed female-reproductive-tract-on-a-chip.

 
JingLi, MD/PhD

Jing Li, MD/PhD
Multi-institutional Postdoctoral Fellow
Jing obtained her M.D. and Ph.D. from China. Her Ph.D. research training combined clinical practice research at Guo’s lab, Center for Reproductive Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, and basic biomedical research at Laird’s lab, Department of Obstetrics Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, UC San Francisco. In Guo’s lab, Jing’s research training mainly focused on the pathogenesis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and age-related fertility decline and miscarriage, exploring their treatment outcomes after Fresh Embryo Transfer or Embryo cryopreservation and transfer; In Laird's lab, Jing explored the ovarian aging phenotypes and underlying pathogenesis associated with the Lamin A/C (LMNA) mutations in a premature aging disorder, Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS). In the Duncan lab, Jing works on a multi-institutional postdoc project funded by Cornell University. Her current research is to determine the associations between the expression of naked mole-rat HMW-HA (nmrHas2) in mice and ovarian inflammation and fibrosis. Jing is passionate about basic and translational medicine research in individualizing fertility preservation and treatment associated with aging.

Graduate Students

 
ShwetaDipali

Shweta Dipali, BA
DGP Student
Shweta earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Rutgers University, where she double-majored in Genetics and Comparative Literature and minored in Spanish. During her undergraduate education she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Karen Schindler where she studied the molecular basis for differences in the binding affinity between human and mouse Aurora kinase B in oocytes. She is currently a graduate student in the Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences and is investigating how ovarian inflammaging promotes ovarian cancer tumor initiation and expansion.

PriankaH. Hashim

Prianka H. Hashim, BS/BA
Prianka graduated from Muhlenberg College with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and a Bachelor of Arts in Gender and Sexuality Studies. During her undergraduate career she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Jeremy Teissere studying the modulating effects of herbal anxiolytics on the GABAA Receptor. She also worked with Dr. Kate Richmond looking at the ethics of transnational surrogacy arrangements. She is currently a PhD/MPH student in the Driskill Graduate Program and is investigating the role of the cGAS-STING pathway in ovarian inflammaging.

 
CarolineKratka

Caroline Kratka, BA
MSTP Student
Caroline graduated from Rutgers University-New Brunswick with a B.A. in Genetics. As an undergraduate, she worked under the direction of Dr. Karen Schindler investigating the efficacy of an activator binding site inhibitor in disrupting Aurora kinase function at the chromosomal passenger complex in mouse oocytes. She is currently part of the Medical Scientist Training Program at Northwestern University and pursuing her PhD in the Duncan lab. Caroline is working within the Ovarian Contraceptive Discovery Initiative and explores the utility of oocyte-specific maturation pathways as potential non-hormonal contraceptive targets.

EmilyZaniker

Emily Zaniker, BA
MSTP Student
Emily graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University, where she double-majored in Biology and Science in Human Culture. During her undergraduate training, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Teresa Woodruff where she worked on investigating the ovotoxicity of 3D-printed dental resins and developed an adipocyte organoid model. She is currently a MD/PhD student in the Medical Scientist Training Program and is investigating the spatial distribution of ovulatory pathways as part of the Ovarian Contraceptive Discovery Initiative.

Masters Students

 
MariamCharles

Mariam Charles
Mariam graduated from Michigan State University where she earned her Bachelors of Science in Genomics and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Global Studies. During her undergraduate years, she worked in Dr. Gemma Reguera's lab to study the middle ear microbiome, and worked alongside Dr. Sue Grady to investigate global maternal mortality. She is currently a student in the Masters of Science in Reproductive Science and Medicine at Northwestern University. In the Duncan Lab, Mariam is working within the Ovarian Contraceptive Discovery Initiative to explore the relationship between follicle activation and ovulation.

PoojaDevrukhkar

Pooja Devrukhkar, MBBS
MS-RSM Student, class of 2023
Pooja received her M.B.B.S. degree from Government Medical College, Akola, in India. She then worked as a Medical Officer, mainly in the areas of Emergency Medicine and Maternal and Child health. She is currently a graduate student in the Master of Science in Reproductive Science and Medicine (MS-RSM) program at Northwestern University. In the Duncan Lab, Pooja is working on investigating and mapping the markers of cellular senescence in the human ovary.

Visiting Scholar

 
Stella Pollyanne de Oliveira, MS

Stella Pollyanne de Oliveira, MS
Visiting Scholar
Stella is a biochemist graduated from the Federal University of São João del Rei. She gained her master's degree in Applied Biochemistry from the Federal University of Viçosa. Her PhD is in the graduate program in Bioengineering at the Federal University of São João del Rei under the supervision of Dr. Paulo Henrique de Almeida Campus-Junior. In the Duncan Lab, Stella will work to identify new regulators of follicle development as part of a grant sponsored by CAPES.

Undergraduate Student

 
CarolVieira de Magalhaes

Carol Vieira de Magalhaes
Undergraduate Researcher
Carol is a Junior at Northwestern University majoring in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Molecular and Developmental Biology. Previously, she did research at the Church Lab at Harvard Medical School studying brain and skin aging. Specifically, she studied how reprogramming affects cellular age, and assisted in a genome-wide neuron genetic screen to find age-associated genes. Before this experience, Carol also spent a year engineering enzymes to catalyze FDA-approved drugs with cell-free protein synthesis at the Jewett Lab at Northwestern. She is passionate about extending reproductive longevity and contributing to research that she believes will increase female healthspan and give women greater reproductive choice. Carol is working with Dr. Amargant to study ovarian fibrosis and how to prevent it.

Technical Staff

 
Kelsey Andersen

Kelsey Andersen, MS
Kelsey earned her Bachelor's of Science in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh followed by a Master's of Science in Reproductive Science and Medicine at Northwestern University. Currently, she is a research technician working on projects involving the post-menopausal ovary and serves as lead personnel of the Duncan Lab Histology Core.

HannahAnvari

Hannah Anvari, MS
Hannah graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. She graduated from the Masters for Reproductive Science and Medicine program at Northwestern in 2021. Her thesis research focused on investigating racial disparities in ovarian aging.

 
YunaLee

Yuna Lee
Yuna graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Animal Science. As an undergraduate, she worked in the lab of Dr. Jodi Flaws and studied the effects of DEHP on folliculogenesis and steroid hormone levels. She is currently a graduate student in the Master's in Reproductive Science and Medicine at Northwestern University. In the Duncan Lab, she is working as a part-time technologist in the histology core.

Research Staffs

 
AsmaGiornazi

Asma Giornazi, MS
Asma received her Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from the University of Colorado Boulder where she investigated upstream open reading frames in mammalian ovarian aging under Joshua Johnson. She then pursued a Master's in Reproductive Science and Medicine from Northwestern University investigating zinc mechanisms in post-ovulatory aged oocytes under Hoi Chang Lee. Currently, she is working as a Research Program Coordinator under Dr. Francesca Duncan and Dr. Mary Ellen Pavone.

Jeff Pea, PhD

Jeff Pea, PhD
Scientific Lead for the Ovarian Contraceptive Discovery Initiative (OCDI)
Dr. Jeff Pea earned his Ph.D. in Biomedical & Biological Sciences from Cornell University. His doctoral work focused on ovarian morphology features in ultrasonography in the detection and evaluation of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) under the supervision of Dr. Marla Lujan. Before his thesis research, Jeff worked with Dr. Paula Cohen to investigate the role of meiotic repair proteins in spermatogenesis. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of British Columbia, where his undergraduate work with Dr. Geoffrey Hammond focused on genetic and hormonal regulation of steroid hormone-binding proteins. Jeff joined the Duncan lab in 2023 as the Scientific Lead for the Ovarian Contraceptive Discovery Initiative (OCDI).

 
Victoria Zhu

Victoria Zhu, MS
Victoria graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology. Upon graduation, she worked as a clinical researcher to conduct experiments for preimplantation genetic testing for monogenetic disorders (PGT-M). Victoria then earned her Master of Science degree in Reproductive Science and Medicine from Northwestern University before joining the Duncan Lab. During her time in the graduate program, Victoria completed her non-thesis research with Dr. Hoi Chang Lee on elucidating the changes in zinc dynamics in post-ovulatory aged oocytes.

 

Former Duncan Lab Members

Austin Armstrong (2016) – Medical Student (University of Kansas Medical Center)

Shawn Briley (2015-2016) – Research Technologist (University of Kansas Medical Center)

Susmita Jasti, PhD (2014-2016) – Senior Scientist (University of Kansas Medical Center)

John Kelsh (2014-2016) – Undergraduate Student (University of Kansas Medical Center)

Shula Horton (2017) – Summer High School Student (Northwestern University)

Natalie Quan (2016-2017) – MS Biotechnology Student (Northwestern University)

Allison Grover (2016-2018) – MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University)

Atsuko Kusuhara (2016-2018) – MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University)

Gillian Rubenstein (2018)  Histochemical Society Capstone Fellow and Marcia Storch Undergraduate Research Scholar (Northwestern University)

Ronni Manuel (2017-2019) – MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University)

Jordan Machlin (2017-2019) – MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University)

Leah Simon (2017-2019) – MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University)

Jenny Rowley (2017-2019) – MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University)

Kalyn Thayer (2019) - Summer Rotation Graduate Student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (Northwestern University)

Naty Pascuali (2019) - Summer Visiting Scholar (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Emily Zaniker (2019) - Summer Rotation Graduate Student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (Northwestern University)

Rebecca Ayiku (2019) Summer Undergraduate Student (Northwestern University)

Rakel Romar (2019) - Summer Visiting Scholar (University of Murcia, Spain)

Jamie Mara  (2018 - 2020) - MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University)

Grace Foley (2020) - Spring Rotation Graduate Student in the Driskill Graduate Program (Northwestern University)

Megan Larmore (2020) - Spring Rotation Graduate Student in the Driskill Graduate Program (Northwestern University)

Soraya Rahini (2021) - High School Student (Horace Greeley High School)

Preeta Kamat (2021) - Undergraduate Student (Northwestern University)

Caroline Kratka (2021) - Summer Rotation Graduate Student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (Northwestern University)

Emmett Kelly (2021) - Summer High School Student (Oak Park River Forest High School)

Adebukola Fetuga (2021) - Summer Undergraduate Student (Northwestern University)

Rebecca Gu (2021-2022) - Summer Post-baccalaureate Student (Northwestern University)

Claire Chaikin (2021) - Summer Rotation Graduate Student in the Driskill Graduate Program (Northwestern University)

Prianka Hashim (2022) - Winter Rotation Graduate Student in the Driskill Graduate Program (Northwestern University)

Raveena Aggarwal (2019-2022) - Medical Student (Northwestern University)

Elnur Babayev, MD (2022) - Research Clinical Fellow (Northwestern University)

Chana Suebthawinkul, MD, MS (2020-2022) - MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University)

Camille Mulcahy (2019-2022) - Histology Technician

Karen Velez, MS (2019-2022) - MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University), Lab Manager

Madison Gowett, BS (2020-2022) - MS Reproductive Science and Medicine (Northwestern University)

Sam Gauthier (2022) - Summer Undergraduate Student (Purdue University)

Emmett Kelly (2022) - Summer High School Student (Oak Park River Forest High School)

Rhea Sharma (2022) - Summer Undergraduate Student (Northwestern University)

Luhan Tracy Zhou (2016-2022) - Former Lab Manager, Research Associate, Operations Lead for the Ovarian Contraceptive Discovery Initiative 

Sarah Wagner (2020-2022) - Project Manager