Undergraduate researcher Anna Just in Abbott Lab receives Hilldale research fellowship

Congratulations to UW–Madison undergraduate Anna Just, who received a 2024 Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship to support her work in the lab of David Abbott, PhD, professor in the Division of Reproductive Sciences! 

The Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship provides research training and support to undergraduates. Students have the opportunity to undertake their own research project in collaboration with UW–Madison faculty or research/instructional academic staff. 

Just is a junior majoring in biology and gender and women's studies. She shared thoughts about her project and what drew her to research in Ob-Gyn: 

What project/projects are you working on as part of this fellowship? 

My project focuses on verifying a rhesus macaque animal model to better understand the pathophysiology and etiology of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). My principal investigator, David Abbott, recently identified a population of female monkeys at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center with naturally occurring high testosterone (T) levels, which is a common feature of PCOS. Expression of CYP17A1, which encodes an enzyme that produces T precursors, has been shown to be elevated in ovarian theca cells of individuals with PCOS. This led to the question that high T levels in these macaques may potentially arise from elevated CYP17A1 expression in the ovary. Ovarian follicles will be stained, imaged, and analyzed for the presence of CYP17A1. If increased CYP17A1 expression is found in ovarian theca cells from naturally high T monkeys, this would emulate PCOS pathogenesis in women, and thus further validate these monkeys as a novel model for studying PCOS. My project has been guided by the expertise and experience of David Abbott, Elise Barteld, and Sarah Shaw.

What drew you to this lab and this research?  

I was drawn to this lab due to my interest in women's health and my desire to get involved with research on campus.  

What are you most excited about for this fellowship?   

I am most excited to utilize this fellowship to further immerse myself in understanding how the female reproductive system works and strengthen relationships with those I work alongside.  

Congratulations, Anna and the Abbott Lab!