Jean Popwell, PFC Senior Embryologist
I first arrived in San Francisco 13 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia, right out of graduate school. I have to admit that moving 3,000 miles away from everyone and everything I knew was a bit daunting; however, it has been one of the most educational and exciting experiences of my life.
My pathway into Assisted Reproductive Technology was an indirect one. It all began at the University of Georgia where I intended to become a veterinarian. However, after several summers assisting vets in Atlanta during my undergrad years, I realized that I wanted to pursue something that involved research. I decided to attend graduate school at UGA and obtained a Masters in Reproductive Physiology in 1995, and then immediately completed a PhD in Reproductive Physiology in 1999 at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.
While in graduate school, I became aware through my IVF research with cows, horses, mice, and primarily pigs, of the infertility problem that also existed in humans. Even though I enjoyed teaching, I knew I did not want to become a full tenured professor. I began a search for the type of career that involved my three favorite areas, research, science and reproduction. I eventually posted my CV on a popular fertility career website and my current boss, Joe Conaghan contacted me. The rest is history.
While at PFC, I have learned how to work with human embryos and culture systems, and all the different techniques that we use everyday to help our patients to become parents. In 2002 and again in 2004, I studied for, and acquired my Technical Supervisor (TS) and High Complexity Clinical Lab Director (HCLD) licenses. These licenses recognize me as a trained embryologist and andrologist, and as a lab director, giving me the capability of directing an IVF Lab of my own one day.
Now as a senior embryologist and HCLD, I have the opportunity to be involved with many projects in and outside of the PFC laboratory. Along with my daily IVF lab responsibilities, I have the opportunity to perform IVF lab inspections for regulatory agencies, participate in IVF conferences and external clinical research. One of my most exciting external research experiences began in 2011 at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. A researcher needed help performing dolphin semen analysis in the animal lab for her many male dolphins. At the end of the day, as a reward for all of our hard work in the research lab, we were given the opportunity to spend some quality play time with the park inhabitants, in particular the marine animals. I Iearned that dolphins must be fed ice pellets and cold jello several times a day to remain hydrated. I am still thrilled to be involved in the project. Merlin, a 25 year old dolphin from Atlanta, has become a good friend of mine. I was also honored to meet Shouka, a 19 year old female orca whale, before she was relocated to San Diego to find suitable roommates.
I truly love what I do and the excellent team of people that I have the pleasure of working with in the IVF lab. The last 12 years have been both very educational and fulfilling. I look forward everyday to the process of helping an egg become an embryo, and later a baby, and I feel very fortunate to be able to help so many people. I really cant imagine a more rewarding career!
Jean M. Popwell, PhD, HCLD, CC