2024 ASRM Research Institute Grant Awardees

2024 ASRM Discovery & Innovation Grant Awardee

Lubna Pal, MBBS, MRCOG (Yale School of Medicine)

Title: “Examining mechanisms for the differential risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in spontaneous versus ART pregnancies”

Dr. Lubna Pal is a Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine.   A graduate of Dow Medical College, Karachi, Pakistan, Dr. Pal completed postgraduate training in the United Kingdom before pursuing subspecialty training in the United States. She received dual fellowship training in Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York) and a master’s degree in clinical research from Yeshiva University, New York. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (United Kingdom) and of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists.  She is a recipient of multiple awards for clinical excellence, teaching, and clinical research, has published in numerous scientific journals, is on the editorial board of reputable peer-reviewed journals in the field of Reproductive Endocrinology, Infertility, and Menopause, and has edited multiple books on Reproductive Endocrinology and is recognized nationally and internationally for her commitment to reproductive wellness and patient wellbeing, to education of the next generations of clinicians and researchers and for her work in the field of women’s health.  

2024 ASRM Discovery & Innovation Grant Awardee

(Supported by the Howard and Georgeanna Jones Foundation for Reproductive Medicine)

Chao Zhou, PhD (Washington University)

Title: “Facilitating in vitro fertilization using label-free, time-lapse 3D optical coherence microscopy”

Dr. Chao Zhou graduated from Peking University in China, obtained his PhD degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and received post-doctoral training from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Before joining Washington University in St. Louis in 2019, he was an Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering at Lehigh University. Dr. Zhou has extensive experience in biophotonics and contributed to the development and validation of novel imaging modalities for various applications ranging from measuring brain function to monitoring embryo development. He has published over 85 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, which have been cited >7,700 times. He holds multiple US and international patents for his inventions. Dr. Zhou is an Editorial Board Member and Section Lead in Bioengineering & Biotechnology of Communications Biology and an associate editor for Photonics Research, IEEE Photonics Journal, and Medical Physics. He is a fellow of Optica (formerly Optical Society of America, OSA), the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), and the American Heart Association (AHA), and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He is a recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the National Institute of Health (NIH) K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award (2011), the National Innovation Award (2017) from TechConnect World Innovation Conference and National Innovation Summit, the RPB Stein Innovation Award (2021) from the Research to Prevent Blindness Foundation, and the Innovative Research Award (2021) from the Clayco Foundation.

2024 ASRM Pilot & Exploratory Grant Awardee

Heidi Cook-Andersen, MD, PhD (University of California, San Diego)

Title: “Non-destructive assessment of human embryo implantation potential using Raman spectroscopy”

Heidi Cook-Andersen is an Assistant Professor at University of California, San Diego, with a joint appointment in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and the Department of Molecular Biology. Dr. Cook-Andersen completed her M.D./Ph.D. at Yale University as a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow. She completed her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and subspecialty fellowship training in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at UC San Diego, where she stayed as faculty as a NIH Women’s Reproductive Health Research Scholar and Burroughs Wellcome Fund CAMS Scholar. In her research laboratory, Dr. Cook-Andersen is working to uncover the molecular mechanisms that form the basis of oocyte and embryo quality and support development of a blastocyst competent for successful implantation.  

2024 ASRM Pilot & Exploratory Grant Awardee

(Supported in part by Legacy, Inc)

Rossella Cannarella, MD, PhD (Cleveland Clinic Foundation)

Title: “Role of Low Sperm IGF2 Expression Levels in Male Infertility: A New Cause of Poor Early Embryo Development”

Dr. Rossella Cannarella is an Endocrinology specialist and a European Academy of Andrology (EAA) certified Clinical Andrologist who has carried out her internship at the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolic Diseases and Nutrition, University of Catania (Italy), an EAA Training Center, directed by her research mentor, Prof. Aldo E Calogero. In 2022, she received her international PhD in Translational Biomedicine from the University of Catania. She was appointed Research Fellow at the Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland (OH, USA). Dr. Cannarella spent more than 15 years training in the field of endocrinology, male infertility, and human reproduction. During her residency in Endocrinology, she joined Summer Schools organized by the EAA leading Center in Testicular Histology (Zagreb, Croatia), where she gained knowledge on human testicular histopathology. She also joined and collaborated with colleagues of the University of Perugia (Italy), experts in culturing neonatal porcine Sertoli cells, where she developed research protocols aimed at understanding the impact of growth factors (i.e. insulin, IGF1, etc.) on the function of these cells. More recently, she has begun to focus on sperm epigenetics and transcriptome. As a visiting scholar at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (Worcester, MA, USA), she spent six months studying the role of sperm-derived transcripts on parthenotes gene expression in mice, a project for which she was awarded by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in 2020. Dr. Cannarella has participated as a guest lecturer in over 50 national and international meetings on male infertility and human reproduction. She is a member of the Editorial Board of five peer-reviewed and indexed journals (Frontiers in Endocrinology - section Reproduction, BMC Urology, International Journal of Molecular Science, Minerva Endocrinology, Asian Journal of Andrology). She has published 205 articles in indexed, peer-reviewed journals and has an h-index of 24 (Scopus, 2/9/2024).

Dr. Cannarella’s research interests include the role of FSH in the treatment of male infertility, the genetics of spermatogenic failure, the effects of growth factors on immature Sertoli cells, testicular function in childhood, and the role of sperm-derived transcripts in embryo development. Her clinical interests include the management of infertile male patients, varicocele, male accessory gland infection/inflammation, hypogonadism, gynecologic endocrinology, metabolic diseases, and general endocrinology.

2024 ASRM Pilot & Exploratory Grant Awardee

(Supported by an Educational Grant provided by EMD Serono)

Aileen Portugal, MD (Washington University, St Louis)

Title: “Language Matters: Exploring the Impact of Language Concordance on Fertility Treatment Progression”

Aileen Portugal, MD, is a Clinical Fellow in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at the Washington University School of Medicine. She received her MD degree from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, IL. Subsequently, she completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA. Dr. Portugal is a recipient of numerous scholarships and awards, most recently she received the 2022-2023 Resident Award for Excellence in REI from the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and the 2022-2023 Outstanding Resident in Gynecologic Oncology Award from the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

Dr. Portugal’s research interests focus on health disparities in fertility access and outcomes. She is dedicated to bridging the gap in fertility care, especially for underserved communities. Additionally, she is the founder member of the Hispanic Special Interest Group within the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. This initiative underscores her commitment to diversity and inclusion in reproductive health, providing a platform for addressing specific challenges faced by the Hispanic community in fertility care.

2024 ASRM Pilot & Exploratory Grant Awardee

(Supported by an Educational Grant provided by EMD Serono)

Austin Johnson, MD (University of Washington)

Title: “Decisional regret regarding pre-operative fertility preservation choices following gender-affirming surgery among transgender men/gender non-binary persons”

Dr. Austin Johnson is a Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility fellow at the University of Washington. He received a degree in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development from the University of Minnesota, after which he was the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Teaching Award to Germany. He returned to the University of Minnesota for medical school and completed his Obstetrics & Gynecology residency at the University of North Carolina in 2022. Following residency, he was selected as a clinical research fellow in the University of North Carolina’s Women’s Reproductive Health fellowship. During this time, he completed masters coursework in biostatistics, epidemiology, and public health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. As a fellow, he is committed to improving access to fertility care through his clinical, research, and advocacy efforts, with a particular interest in improving equitable access to family-building options for LGBTQI+ persons.

2024 Pilot & Exploratory Grant Awardee

(Supported by an endowment from the Asia-Pacific Biomedical Research Foundation)

Jaroslav Slamecka, PhD (University of California, San Diego)

Title: “Dissecting the distinct contributions of transcription and RNA turnover to conversion of primed to naïve human pluripotent stem cells and their differentiation into trophectoderm”

Jaroslav Slamecka is a cell biologist studying human pluripotent stem cells, in their primed as well as naive state, and their differentiation into somatic and extraembryonic lineages, with a special interest in (trans)differentiation into trophectoderm and subsequent establishment of trophoblast stem cells. He is also enthusiastic about bioinformatics, especially transcriptomic data analysis. He received his PhD in biotechnology at the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra, Slovakia and completed post-doctoral training at the Mitchell Cancer Institute, University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. He then joined the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences in Rockville, MD as a scientist and subsequently acquired experience in the biotech industry at Colossal Biosciences in Boston. He now works as an Assistant Project Scientist at the Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego under the mentorship of Dr. Mana Parast and Dr. Heidi Cook-Andersen.

2024 ASRM Pilot & Exploratory Grant Awardee

(Supported by the Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Association)

Abey Eapen, MBBS, DRCOG, PhD, FCRI (University of Iowa)

Title: "A Pilot Study to identify the Autoimmune, Inflammatory and Epigenetic Disruptors – Critical Mechanisms leading to Unexplained Recurrent Miscarriage - The PLATINUM study”

Dr. Abey Eapen is a clinical associate professor and a REI faculty member at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City. After graduating in medicine from the University of Calicut, India, Dr. Abey Eapen embarked on a career in the United Kingdom. He did his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and then had specialized training in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility from the West Midlands region, United Kingdom. In 2017, he completed a Ph.D. in Reproductive Medicine (Obstetrics and Gynecology) from the University of Birmingham, UK, after researching the use of recombinant human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (RH-GCSF) in women with recurrent miscarriages. In 2021, he was inducted as a fellow of the American Society of Reproductive Immunology (ASRI) after completing his fellowship in reproductive immunology. His special interests and expertise are in treating persons undergoing assisted conception treatment and those diagnosed with recurrent pregnancy loss and recurrent implantation failure. 

Dr. Eapen is a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, the British Fertility Society, the American Society for Reproductive Immunology, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies. He serves as a peer reviewer for multiple medical journals.  

He is a first-year Clinical Research Training Program Scholar through the ASRM - CREST Scholarship funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He is also the director for REI Advanced Elective Rotation for medical students at the University of Iowa.