Sarah J. Bacon

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

Physiological interaction between mother and fetus in mammalian pregnancy, particularly how early placental development affects pregnancy success

Biologist Sarah Bacon is fascinated by the relationship between mother and fetus during pregnancy. "What I'm really interested in is fertility and miscarriage," she says. "Eighty percent of what humans conceive is lost before birth." Bacon says that most pregnancies end before a woman even knows she's pregnant. She's trying to find out why by studying reproduction in rats, which have very similar pregnancies to humans. Bacon also studies the ways in which mother and fetus communicate through the placenta. "It's so powerful, such an enigma," she says. "There's no other relationship that is that physiologically intimate."

A 1987 graduate of Mount Holyoke, Bacon went on to earn a Ph.D. in organismal biology at the University of Chicago; after a one-year postdoctoral research fellowship at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, she returned to Mount Holyoke as an assistant professor of biological sciences in 1998.

Bacon credits her undergraduate education with having a positive impact on her career. "There is an important way in which being here shaped how I went about my research," she says. "I consciously sought out female mentors, and it worked out very well for me." She chose a female adviser at the University of Chicago, who "modeled family life in combination with professional life in a way I did not see men doing," Bacon remembers. "I learned a huge amount from her." Bacon says the caring attention she was given by her professors at MHC also made a difference. "It can make you realize you have potentials that maybe you didn't suspect," she says. "There are people in this department who did that for me, and now I get to teach with them."

In 2002, Bacon was awarded $110,480 by the National Institutes of Health AREA program for her project "Maternal-Fetal Immune Interaction and Pregnancy Success."

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