chelsie boodoo


Maternal diabetes or improper vitamin supplementation during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects like spina bifida. Folate deficiency leads to hyperhomocysteine which has been associated with neural tube defects. In diabetic mothers, their serum levels of free fatty acids, like palmitate, and homocysteine levels are elevated. Palmitate, a saturated free fatty acid, can induce the dimerization of Inositol Requiring Enzyme (IRE1), which is an ER transmembrane sensor of the unfolded protein response. Chelsie’s research investigates how factors such as hyperhomocysteine, folic acid, biomechanics and palmitate that activate IRE1 affect the extacellular matrix in relation to spina bifida.


  • MSU Engineering Symposium
    • 1st Place Best Poster Presentation in Health, Food Safety and Biomechanics for research on how mechanics affect the extracellular matrix of the bladder
  • MSU Student Life and Services Awards
    • Gold Recipient MSU 2020 Graduate Student Leader

Outreach Project

Chelsie helped organize a series of science-art events at MSU through MSU SciComm, an organization that she founded and leads.

mohamed ashry


Transcription factor AP2γ (TFAP2C) is a key regulator of mammalian trophoblast lineage formation required for cell polarization, position-dependent HIPPO signaling, and Cdx2 expression. Mohamed studies the role of TFAP2C in establishing the trophoblast lineage gene expression program by forming a regulatory complex with TEAD4, YAP1, and other key proteins. He is using loss of function and gain of function methods, co-immunoprecipitation, ChIP, and gene expression analysis in preimplantation embryos and Tfap2c-inducible ES cells to assay for: a) physical and functional interactions between TFAP2C, TEAD4, YAP1, and other co-regulators; b) effects on chromatin accessibility, and c) transcriptional regulation of trophoblast specific genes.

Recent Publications

  • Mohamed Ashry, Sandeep Rajput, Joseph Folger, Chunyan Yang, Jason Knott, and George W. Smith (2020): Follistatin treatment modifies the DNA methylation pattern of the CDX2 gene in bovine embryos. Molecular Reproduction and Development. 2020: 1–11.
  • Challis Karasek, Mohamed Ashry*, Chad S. Driscoll, and Jason G. Knott (2020): A tale of two cell-fates: Role of the hippo signaling pathway and transcription factors in early lineage formation in mouse preimplantation embryos. Molecular Human Reproduction, 26 (9): 653–664 https://doi:10.1093/molehr/gaaa052 . (*co-first author)

mohamed ashry cellsOutreach Project

Mohamed will be volunteering in the university events that promote STEM among children and young adults including MSU Science Festival and Science Olympiad. The 2021 MSU science festival will be virtual. Mohamed will provide an online demonstration for the in vitro embryo production process with real pictures for sperms, oocytes, and different stages of preimplantation embryos.

image of jennifer watts phd


Zika virus (ZIKV) causes fetal microcephaly. It remains unknown how the timing of infection during pregnancy affects severity of defects, because most studies have focused on later stage infection. Jennifer hypothesizes that earlier ZIKV infection during preimplantation stages could cause more severe effects than infection at later stages due to effects on early cell lineage formation. In an effort to understand the consequences of earlier infection, Jennifer used ex utero embryo culture techniques to infect mouse embryos. She found that ZIKV infection at the two-cell stage can cause developmental arrest, whereas infection at the blastocyst stage has shown reduced fetal proper (SOX2-expressing cells) fate. These results suggest that preimplantation ZIKV infection causes embryonic demise or cell fate defects depending on when infection occurred.

Recent Publications

Frum T , Watts JL, and Ralston A. TEAD4, YAP1 and WWTR1 prevent the premature onset of pluripotency prior to the 16-cell stage. Development vol. 146,17 dev179861. 6 Sep. 2019, doi:10.1242/dev.179861

Watts J, Lokken A, Moauro A, and Ralston A. Capturing and Interconverting Embryonic Cell Fates in a Dish. Cell Fate in Mammalian Development, Hadjantonakis AK and Plusa B, Eds. Book Chapter (2018).

jennifer watts summer research programOutreach Project

Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) at MSU is a 10-week research-intensive experience where students from the US and its territories receive training at an R01 institution. Jennifer has mentored 47 students during 2017, 2019, and 2020 from disciplines in the Social/Behavior Sciences (SBS) and STEM. As a graduate mentor, she conducts weekly meetings to assist students on science communications in forms of chalk talks (SROP talks), formal presentations, and written deliverables. Additionally, Jennifer participates in the MSU Girls’ Math and Science Day hosted by the Graduate Women in Science organization. Jennifer performs enthusiastic demonstrations and presentations to encourage middle school aged girls about STEM.

image of ginrich

Research Description:

Jeremy received his B.S. in Animal Science from Michigan State University. His research project focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that result in placental cells intercellular communication and fusion defects. To address these questions, he will use a model of in vivo gestational chemical exposure and in vitro techniques, including primary cell culture, gap junction intercellular communication assays, and RNA sequencing.

Outreach Project

Jeremy’s outreach project focuses on educating children and their grandparents through MSU’s Grandparent’s University (GPU) program. Jeremy has newly developed and lead a course titled “Ultrasonography in Sheep: Is She Pregnant?”. In this course, 8-12-year old’s and their grandparents, most of whom are MSU alumni, learn about sheep reproduction and ultrasonography during pregnancy through hands-on engagement. All course participants had the opportunity to guide an ultrasound during veterinarian-supervised pregnancy exams. Jeremy plans to continue teaching through the GPU program and looks forward to next years’ sessions! See more about this year’s GPU session.

Robert Vanderkamp

Robert Vanderkamp previously received his B.S. in Physiology from Michigan State University, where his undergraduate research focused on the modulation of neuroimmune interactions in the inflammatory bowel diseases. Robert is a now a Physiology Ph.D. student in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology. His research project focuses on the discovery of novel genes regulating extravillous trophoblast invasion in normal or preeclamptic pregnancy. He hopes that his findings will translate to the identification of predictive biomarkers that can be correlated to pregnancy outcome.

Planned Outreach:

Robert plans to volunteer his time at the Michigan Statewide Science Olympiad competition.