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Laronda Lab Members

Dr. Laronda

Monica M. Laronda, Ph.D.


Dr. Laronda received her undergraduate degree from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. She earned her PhD in Life Sciences in the laboratory of J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD in Northwestern University’s Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, while studying the role of Sox3 (sex-determining region-Y box gene 3) on spermatogonial differentiation. Her first postdoctoral appointment in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern, provided an outlet to explore how undifferentiated epithelium received cues from adjacent mesenchymal layers, and how this could be disrupted during neonatal exposure to synthetic estrogens. Her second postdoctoral appointment was under the guidance of Teresa K Woodruff, PhD where she investigated the extracellular matrix (ECM) compartments within the ovary, how these affect the growth and viability of isolated granulosa cells and ovarian follicles and how to use natural ECM or biomimetic scaffolds to create an engineered ovary. Under Dr. Woodruff’s mentorship, Dr. Laronda has received several internal grants, including one from the John and Lillian Mathews Regenerative Medicine Endowment Fund to develop induced

pluripotent stem cell differentiation protocols within the NMH Good Manufacturing Practice facility. She has also worked within the Oncofertility Consortium, under the direction of Dr. Woodruff, to develop clinical-grade ovarian tissue preservation kits.


Dr. Laronda was awarded the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface for her work in the Woodruff Lab on developing an engineered ovary using 3D printing. The BWF CASI is a transition award that continues to support her independent lab.


Dr. Laronda was recruited by the Stanley Manne Research Institute and the Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital to contribute to the Fertility and Hormone Preservation and Restoration Program that bridges basic science, translational research and clinical practice. She started her appointment in the Department of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology on August 2016 as a Warren and Eloise Batts Scholar.

Headshot by Janice B Terry, LCH 

Diane Saunders, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Joined: March 2024

Diane received her undergraduate degree from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She stayed at Vanderbilt for postdoctoral training, where her research in the laboratory of Drs. Alvin Powers and Marcela Brissova focused on human pancreas development and characterizing cellular signatures of endocrine, vascular, stromal, and immune cells in health and disease. Diane became a faculty member at Vanderbilt in 2022, where she directed multiplex imaging in the Powers/Brissova Research Group, co-managed the Islet and Pancreas Analysis Core, and acted as Scientific Director of Pancreatlas, an online image resource that houses reference datasets from human pancreas samples. Diane was introduced to the Laronda Lab through the HuBMAP consortium and was excited by the opportunity to apply her skillset to the field of reproductive endocrinology. She looks forward to contributing to ongoing collaborations and pursuing integration of multi-modality datasets to translate research findings towards improvements in fertility preservation.

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Hana Kubo

Ph.D. Candidate

Joined: June 2019

Hana is a PhD student in the Driskill Graduate Program at NU Feinberg School of Medicine. She graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in Genetics and a minor in Classical Studies. During her undergraduate years, Hana worked in Dr. Andrea Kasinski’s lab studying the role of microRNAs in non-small cell lung cancer. In the Laronda lab, she is working to generate ovarian follicle support cells from stem cells, as well as better characterize support cells in various culture conditions.

Headshot by Janice B Terry, LCH 

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Elizabeth Tsui

Ph.D. candidate

Joined: September 2020

Elizabeth is a PhD student in the Driskill Graduate Program at NU Feinberg School of Medicine as well as a student in Northwestern’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). She is a graduate of Duke University, with a major in Biology and a minor in both Chemistry and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Under the mentorship of Dr. Kris Wood at Duke, she studied the role of c-Myc as the convergence point of multiple chemotherapeutic resistance mechanisms in B-Raf mutant melanoma. In the Laronda lab, she focuses on understanding differences between prepubertal and postpubertal ovaries as well as the contribution of the stromal microenvironment to folliculogenesis. 

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Hannah B. McDowell, M.S.

Ph.D. Student

Joined: July 2022

Hannah graduated from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign double majoring in Molecular/Cellular Biology and Chemistry. During her undergraduate years, she worked in Dr. Erik R. Nelson's lab, studying the effects of cholesterol on exosome driven breast cancer metastasis. She then obtained a Master's in Biotechnology from Northwestern University. In the Laronda Lab, Hannah is determining the role of chemotherapy-induced neo-angiogenesis in primordial follicle activation upon ovarian tissue transplantation. 


Gabriela (Gaby) Berniac
Ph.D. Student

Joined: January 2024

Gaby is a first year PhD student in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Northwestern University. She graduated from Boston University with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering. Her undergraduate research in Dr. Timothy O’Shea’s Glia Engineering Lab focused on regulating myofibroblast-like phenotypes in neural progenitor cells (NPC) through high serum exposure to optimize NPC transplantation outcomes in a stroke mouse model. In the Laronda Lab, Gaby is currently investigating how altering the morphology of granulosa cells using biomaterials from the Ameer Lab affects hormone production, namely estradiol. She hopes to contribute towards a solution for population groups affected by low estradiol levels. She is co-advised by Dr. Guillermo Ameer in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. 

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Samantha McLean

M.D. candidate

Joined: June 2022

Samantha McLean is a first-year medical student at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. She recently graduated from Michigan State University in 2020 where she studied exercise physiology and health promotion. Samantha's research interests include fertility preservation and the cryopreservation of ovarian tissue in pediatric patients.


Kathryn L. McElhinney M.D

General Surgeon Resident, Research Fellow

Joined: July 2022

Dr. McElhinney is a research fellow with the Laronda Lab and Lurie Children’s Division of Pediatric Surgery. originally became invested in biomedical research as an undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in biochemistry. She went on to complete her medical doctorate at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She completed 3 years of general surgery residency at Dell Medical Center at the University of Texas at Austin prior to joining the Laronda Lab. As part of the Laronda Lab, Dr. McElhinney studies the role of extracellular matrix proteins in the ovary in maintaining primordial follicles. This work continues the lab’s efforts to create a transplantable 3D printed artificial ovary.


Anjali Patel

M.D. candidate

Joined: June 2023

Anjali Patel is a rising second-year medical student at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. Anjali graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 2021 with a major in Finance and minors in Chemistry and Spanish. As an undergraduate, she worked with Dr. Rekha Srinivasan to study the implementation of the Process Orientated Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) pedagogy into the biochemistry classroom. She also worked in Dr. Nathan Berger's lab studying the role of obesogenic diets in the progression of promyelocytic leukemia. In the Laronda Lab, she is working to promote the homing of spermatogonial stem cells within testicular organoids.

Topher McCauley M.D.

Pediatric Surgery Research Fellow

Joined: July 2023

Topher is a general surgery resident at the University of North Carolina and a Pediatric Surgery Research Fellow at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. He graduated from Wheaton College with a
B.S. in chemistry in 2016 and received his MD from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in
2020. He has prior research experience in pediatric surgery outcomes, pediatric traumatic injury, sickle cell
disease, and medical education. In the Laronda Lab, he investigates the role of stromal cells in folliculogenesis
within a bioengineered and transplantable system.


Claire Joswiak, M.S.

Research Technologist II

Joined: May 2023

Claire earned a BS in Biomedical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology in 2020. During her graduate studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, she studied in Dr. Marsha Rolle's lab for 1.5 years before leaving the program. She then spent a year in industry working for Sai Life Sciences, a contract research organization in Watertown, MA performing a wide variety of cell-based assays for biotech companies in the Boston area. She recently returned to Chicago, IL and joined the Laronda lab as a research technologist. In addition to providing general support for the lab, she helps to cryopreserve ovarian and gonadal tissue for pediatric patients at Lurie Children's Hospital. Additionally, she is contributing to a project focusing on the growth and maturation of human primordial and murine secondary follicles cultured on engineered bioscaffolds in vitro.


Lauren Gadek

Research Technologist II

Joined: August 2023

Lauren graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2023 with a major in Biology and certificates in Global Health and Health Policy. As an undergraduate, Lauren worked in Dr. Matthew Harer’s lab, conducting translational research to examine the efficacy of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) in monitoring kidney oxygenation in preterm neonates. She also aided Dr. Kerri Machut of Lurie Children’s Hospital in determining authorship gender distributions in the Journal of Perinatology before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lauren joined the Laronda lab as a research technologist II during her gap year prior to medical school. She is assisting the Laronda lab in processing ovarian and gonadal tissue for cryopreservation and supporting other projects in the lab.


Shravya Pant

Undergraduate student

Joined: August 2023

Shravya is an undergraduate student at Northwestern University (‘26) studying Journalism and Biological Sciences. Originally from New York City, she is passionate about translational research and scientific communication and hopes to pursue an MSTP/MD-PhD after graduating. In Fall 2023, Shravya will be working as a Capitol Hill correspondent as a part of the Medill on the Hill program, reporting on health and science developments from the nation’s capital. She is excited to build on her experiences in scientific journalism and wet lab research by learning new skills in the Laronda Lab. Outside of the lab, Shravya is a volunteer advocate at Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault and enjoys listening to podcasts, culinary experimentation, playing tennis and working as a ball person at the US Open.


Anika Schipma 

MS-RSM Student 

Joined: November 2023

Anika Schipma is a Master’s student within the MS-RSM program at Northwestern University’s Graduate School. Anika graduated from Northwestern University in 2023 with a B.S. in Neuroscience. As an undergrad, she worked in the Schmidt Lab, investigating the relationships between the murine estrous cycle and non-image forming functions of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells. In the Laronda Lab, Anika plans to promote homing of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) within testicular organoids, and optimize the organoid culture design to promote SSC proliferation. After finishing her master’s, Anika hopes to pursue a career in medicine.


Janavi Thyagraj, MSc

MS-RSM Student 

Joined: November 2023

Janavi Thyagraj is a graduate student in the MS-Reproductive Science and Medicine Program at the Center for Reproductive Science, Northwestern University. She has earned an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology (BSc BT) from SIES College of Arts, Science & Commerce, Mumbai, and a master’s degree in Medical Biotechnology (MSc MBT) from Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed to be University, Pune. Janavi worked on the isolation and characterization of siderophores from Rhizobacteria, under the guidance of Dr. Tara Menon (HOD, Biotechnology) for her final year undergraduate project. During her master's, she  developed a herbal plant extract impregnated with pectin-alginate gel and bandage to study its enhanced wound healing properties.  Dr. Alpana Moghe, HOD at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology was her mentor to this project. Janavi also has tutelage at Upaasana Academy of Fine Arts (Mumbai), practicing the Indian classical dance form, Bharatanatyam, for over a decade. In the Laronda lab, Janavi aims to differentiate human iPSCs from intersex patients into hormone-producing cells.

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