Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Shuka Park L&S Sciences

Investigating interactions between the circadian and reproductive systems in female reproduction

Female reproductive health is a pervasive issue in the medical field as 16.2% of married women ages 15-49 are affected by infertility. Recent studies reveal that poor female reproductive health arises, in part, from circadian disruption. Due to modern lifestyles, humans lack exposure to natural sunlight during daytime and receive excess artificial lighting during nighttime, which disrupts circadian rhythms. COVID-19 quarantining has exacerbated this issue, and despite knowing how harmful circadian disruption is for female reproductive health, the anatomy and physiology behind how the circadian and reproductive systems communicate remain nebulous.

This project will determine how the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the master circadian clock of the brain, coordinates the activity of Kisspeptin (Kp) and RFRP-3 neurons (neurons that positively and negatively regulate reproduction, respectively) to allow for ovulation. Viral tract tracing in mice will determine the neurochemical pathway between the SCN and Kp/RFRP-3 neurons, and optogenetic techniques will determine how the SCN communicates with Kp/RFRP-3 neurons to regulate the timed balance of Kp stimulation with RFRP-3 inhibition. These findings can help develop medical treatments to combat female infertility resulting from circadian disruption due to modern lifestyles.

Message To Sponsor

I deeply appreciate this opportunity to conduct research over the summer as part of the SURF program! Through this experience, not only discovered more about the topic of neuroendocrinology, but also improved my understanding of what rigorous research entails. Coming from a humble but hard-working family, I believe that the financial support and professional mentorship that this program offered will help provide me with the experience to thrive in higher education and beyond. Thank you so much for your support!
Profile image of Shuka Park
Major: Psychology, Molecular and Cell Biology
Mentor: Lance Kriegsfeld
Sponsor: Zara Fund
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