Berna Sozen

Group Leader

Dr. Berna Sozen, is Assistant Professor of Developmental Stem Cell Biology at Yale Department of Genetics, secondary faculty at Department of Ob/Gyn & Reproductive Sciences and affiliated member of Yale Stem Cell Center at Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Sozen first trained as a Reproductive Biologist at Akdeniz University, Turkey (2009-2015), and later as a Developmental Biologist at the University of Cambridge, UK (2015-2019). In her earlier training years, she worked with Prof. Tom Fleming in Southampton, UK (2012) on pre-implantation embryogenesis and developmental programming. After a short training as a Clinical Embryologist at Istanbul University, Turkey (2015), she moved to Cambridge, UK to complete her PhD project. She then undertook her post-doctoral research first at Cambridge, and later at California Insitute of Technology (Caltech) during which she developed in vitro systems to model mammalian early embryogenesis using various types of stem cells, in the Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz group. In 2020, she established her independent research group at Yale Genetics.         

Liangwen Zhong

Associate research scientist

Liangwen Zhong first trained as a Reproductive Biologist (2008-2016) and later as a clinical embryologist (2016-2017) at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in in their first IVF lab-affiliated hospital. He worked in Prof. Qinghua Shi’s lab on the genetic causes of spermatogenic failure and male infertility, later moving to the US for his postdoctoral training as a stem cell biologist (2017-2022). Liangwen studied the directed differentiation of human PSCs into lung progenitors in Prof. Sarah Xuelian Huang’s lab at UT Health, and pluripotency maintenance in mouse embryonic stem cells in Prof. Duancheng Wen’s lab at Weill Cornell Medicine. Over his early training years, he generated novel mouse models that phenocopy non-azoospermia symptoms, defined genes that cause meiotic monopololar spindle formation in mouse spermatocytes, and found that lipid supplementation maintained the full developmental potency and genomic stability of embryonic stem cells. In Aug. 2022, Liangwen joined the Sozen lab as an Associate Research Scientist, curious about the role of metabolism and intracellular signaling for stem-cell based embryo development, as well as for natural mammalian embryogenesis.       


PHD candidate


Ashley is a Ph.D. candidate in Genetics at Yale University and has been a member of the Sozen lab since March 2021, entering Yale through the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program in Fall 2020. Ashley graduated from Seattle University in March 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Cell and Molecular Biology. As an undergraduate, Ashley researched in both the labs of Dr. Charles (Chuck) Murry and Dr. Ying Zheng at the University of Washington’s Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, during which she worked on engineering human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocyte models and in vitro aneurysm models. After college, Ashley worked as a research assistant at Brown University under Dr. Kareen Coulombe, where she worked on generating bioelectric sutures to improve stem cell derived-cardiomyocyte grafting on host tissue.          




Monique is a PhD student in Genetics at Yale from Miami, Florida. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Spanish from Florida State University where she pursued her diverse research interests in radioactive chemistry and conservation biology. She then earned her master’s degree in Clinical Embryology at the University of Oxford, UK where she discovered her passion for developmental biology. At Oxford, she conducted her thesis project on left-right asymmetry in mammalian embryonic heart development with Dr. Shankar Srinivas. Before coming to Yale, Monique worked as a postbaccalaureate research fellow investigating RNA degradation in mouse oocyte development with Dr. Jurrien Dean at the National Institutes of Health. Monique began her studies at Yale in Fall 2020 and joined the Sozen team in May 2022.         

Jenna bergmann


Jenna is a Yale MD/PhD student and aspiring physician-scientist with a clinical interest in obstetrics and gynecology. She graduated from Barnard College in 2018 where she double majored in Cell & Molecular Biology and Latin. At Barnard, she conducted her undergraduate thesis research in the Mansfield lab studying tissue-specific effects of the Hoxa5 transcription factor on musculoskeletal development. She then spent one year as a research technician for the Houvras lab at Weill Cornell before matriculating in the Yale MD/PhD program. After completing her first two years of medical school, Jenna began her PhD research in the Sozen lab in Fall 2021, studying the impact of metabolic environment on early embryonic development.         

Dominica cao

research ASSISTANT

Dominica graduated from Smith College with BAs in Neuroscience and Biology, working as a teaching assistant during their years in the Valley. They spent a summer in the O’Roak lab at OHSU to study cortical lamination in patient-specific mouse models of autism, and joined the Barresi lab at Smith to model neurodevelopmental diseases in transgenic zebrafish. With a growing interest in development at its earliest stages and a strong fascination with gastrulation dynamics, Dominica joined the Sozen lab in January 2021 as a Research Assistant, working with mammalian embryos and their stem cell models to study metabolic guidance of embryogenesis.         



Postgraduate associate

Ipek earned her B.Sc in Genetics and Bioinformatics from Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul. Later on, she moved to Berlin to major in M.Sc. Molecular Medicine at the Charité Universitätsmedizin. During this period, she worked with stembryo models such as Gastruloids and Trunk-like structures (TLS) and performed her thesis on “Molecular recording of mouse embryonic stem cell-derived TLS” at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics under the supervision of Dr. Jesse Veenvliet and Adriano Bolondi. After graduating from Charité, she spent one year in the same lab as a Research Assistant to understand the effects of hypoxia in development by using the gastruloid model. In a nutshell, she is intrigued to understand mammalian development and to decipher how cellular processes are regulated to ultimately give rise to a whole organism.