When Teresa Woodruff was in kindergarten, she tried dissecting earthworms to figure out how they work. Now, the 3-D-printed ovaries produced in her lab at Northwestern University are helping scientists better understand the female reproductive system — and that understanding has opened the door to promising new fertility treatments.

Woodruff is the guest on the latest episode of People Behind the Science, a podcast that asks scientists about their motivations, challenges and accomplishments.

The podcast, now three years old and more than 400 episodes strong, offers fascinating glimpses into the lives that fuel science. In Episode 409, Woodruff and colleagues demonstrated that lab-made ovaries can function when they’re implanted in mice. It’s a step toward providing fertility options to women whose ovaries have been damaged by cancer treatments. The field is called oncofertility — a term Woodruff coined.

Teresa Woodruff and colleagues have demonstrated that lab-made ovaries can function when they’re implanted in mice. (Northwestern University) (Northwestern University/Northwestern University)

She’s also trying to discover the ways that biological sex affects how medicines perform in the body, and she works to make sure more women are represented in the sciences.

During the 36-minute podcast, she tells how rewarding it has been to hold babies born because of advances in her field, while touching on such topics as the Great Wall of China and why her students stroke a life-size velvet Elvis in her office for good luck.

Woodruff’s interview is no-nonsense, just like the daily scientific grind she oversees at the Woodruff Lab. But the podcast offers a bit of inspiration, too. “The wings of success really are resilience, vision and confidence,” she tells host Marie McNeely.

As for how she gained that success in the first place? Listen to the podcast for the inside story.