Lab News


Victor von Ebner is Back in the News!

We have translated another important manuscript from the “Histological Era” of spermatogenesis research (~1850-1950). It was during this mostly-forgotten era when the founding fathers of spermatogenesis research used fresh and fixed stained and unstained tissues from a variety of animals to define the cells and describe the cellular associations of the tissues of the male reproductive system. This follows up on our recent translation of Enrico Sertoli’s manuscript from 1878 ( We became interested in what was evidently the main debate in our new field, which was whether sperm were formed from the developing germline or somatic Sertoli cells. Sertoli led a group of scientists who held the former (and we now know, correct) view, while Victor von Ebner (1842-1925) led a group of scientists who proposed that Sertoli cells gave rise to sperm, while the germline (specifically, round spermatids) disintegrated to provide fluid and nutritive support for sperm. We wondered how Ebner came to these conclusions, and wanted to provide his posthumous “side of the story”. We have published this German-to-English translation along with modernized terminology and illustrations as well as our thoughts on this important work - coming soon in Molecular Reproduction & Development (WILL PROVIDE LINK ONCE IT’S AVAILABLE).

Nicholas “Nick” Serra Successfully Defends his Ph.D. Dissertation!

Congratulations to Dr. Nick Serra, who defended his dissertation in July 2019. Nick has been co-author on 5 publications (and counting), including 2 first-author manuscripts in Biology of Reproduction. He is moving to Philadelphia, PA to live with his fiancee, who has been patiently waiting for him to graduate! Nick has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Meera Sundaram ( in the Genetics Department at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Sundaram’s lab uses C. Elegans as a model system to study tube development and epithelial matrix biology.

Ellen (Velte) Harrington Successfully Defends her Ph.D. Dissertation!

Congratulations to the newly-minted Dr. Ellen Harrington, who graduated in November 2018. She leaves the Geyer Lab with 9 publications, including a first-author manuscript in Development. I’m afraid we are going to miss her more than she’ll miss us, as she has finally moved to London to live as a newlywed with her husband Peter, who is a paratrooper in the UK Armed Forces. She has also recently landed a job in the pharmaceutical industry in the UK.


A "new" publication from Enrico Sertoli!

We became interested in and recently translated into English, for the first time, a chapter written by Enrico Sertoli in 1878. Unfortunately, it was lost to history; it was only cited twice by his contemporaries, and twice by modern scientists who referenced his beautiful hand-drawn illustrations. This important scholarly work contains a number of amazing discoveries that were attributed to scientists working in the mid-20th century! These discoveries include: first description of mammalian spermatogonia; first description of germ cell intercellular bridges and cytoplasmic projections; first accurate description of the stages of the seminiferous epithelium; and first apparent mention of the blood-testis barrier. In addition, he makes a compelling case for germ cells, rather than Sertoli cells, as the precursors to spermatozoa (this was evidently a hotly-contested topic in the 1870s). The translation was done by Elisa Salemi, a native Italian-speaker who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Romance Studies at UNC-CH, and the original artwork was faithfully re-done by Katya Harris, who recently completed her M.F.A. here at ECU. I edited the translation to modernize the terminology and did my best to interpret Sertoli's observations and descriptions. The chapter and my commentary were recently published in Biology of Reproduction, and both can be found by clicking the links below.

The complete translation:

My commentary on the translation:


Jamie Chamberlin selected for the Brody School of Medicine 2018 Summer Biomedical Research Program

Jamie (pictured above) was accepted into this competitive program for summer 2018, and will be continuing her work in the lab while attending seminars to learn about a wide variety of scientific and career-based topics such as grantwriting, statistical analysis, CV prep, etc. For more details, visit:

Oleksander "Sasha" Kirsanov finishes his Master's Degree

Congratulations to Sasha for successfully defending his Master's Thesis entitled "Analysis of Transgenic Mouse Models to Study Mammalian Spermatogonia" on Monday, July 9, 2018. We are lucky that he has decided to stay in the Geyer lab to pursue his Ph.D., so we'll have him around for a few more years!

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Ellen Velte wins 2018 ECU Berbecker Award

Congratulations to Ellen Velte (shown above with Dr. Rich Franklin, Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies) for being the 2018 recipient of The Berbecker Fellowship. This award goes to a full-time doctoral student at the Brody School of Medicine who has an exceptional record of scientific accomplishment, recognition at the national/international level, and dedication to service during their tenure at ECU. Great job!

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Chris Geyer awarded 2018 ECU Five-Year Research & Creative Activity Award

Geyer, an Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, and John Hoppenthaler, Professor of English, each received Five-Year Research and Creative Activity Awards. The awards are presented to faculty members whose work over the past five years has made an impact on their field of study (Geyer, above left, is shown with ECU Chancellor Dr. Cecil Staton). The full article can be found at:

Geyer lab is awarded an R01 grant from the NIH/NICHD

This 5-year grant (2017-2022) will support studies into how spermatogonial stem cells form at the beginning of mammalian spermatogenesis. For more information, see a recent article from ECU:


Nick Serra receives 2017 Lalor Foundation Merit Fellow Award, Society for the Study of Reproduction

Based on his abstract entitled "Differential requirements for the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and mTORC1 component Raptor in spermatogonial development in the mouse", Nick was selected as a 2017 Lalor Foundation Merit Fellow for the 50th Annual Society for the Study of Reproduction meeting in Washington, D.C. In addition, Nick has been selected as a Finalist for the Trainee Research Award in the Poster Competition. Congratulations Nick!

Nick Serra wins best oral presentation, 2017 ECU Research and Creative Achievement Week

Nick's talk entitled "Differential requirements for the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and mTORC1 component Raptor in spermatogonial development in the mouse" was selected as the best oral presentation in the Doctoral - Biomedical Sciences category at the ECU 2017 Research and Creative Activity Week.

Chris Geyer wins 2017 SSR New Investigator Award

Chris Geyer has been selected to receive the 2017 New Investigator Award by the Society for the Study of Reproduction (

Trey Cook accepted to veterinary school

Congratulations to Trey Cook, who was accepted as a member of the Class of 2021 at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine! Trey will be graduating magna cum laude from East Carolina University in May 2017 with a degree in Biochemistry, and has worked in the Geyer lab since 2014.

2017 Triangle Consortium for Reproductive Biology Meeting

The Geyer lab attended the 26th Annual Meeting of the Triangle Consortium for Reproduction on February 25th at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, NC ( Chris Geyer served as vice-chair, and will chair the meeting in 2018. Congratulations to Nick Serra, whose abstract was chosen for a short talk! Other lab members Bryan Niedenberger, Ellen Velte, Kenneth (Trey) Cook, and Oleksandr (Sasha) Kirsanov, as well as Randy Renegar each presented their work in poster format.