Travel Story: Dr John Schjenken

Dr John Schjenken from the Robinson Research Institute’s Reproductive Immunology group attended the 2014 Society for the Study of Reproduction conference in Michigan, USA.

John presented his research Novel immune mechanisms for seminal fluid action through the TLR4 signaling pathway. 

This is what John had to say about his experience:

What was a highlight of the conference?
This year the conference provided a “broader” range of work presented with many great presentations. I had the opportunity to present my work and was fortunate enough to be recognised with the International Best Abstract Award from the Australia New Zealand region.

Did you meet any researchers or collaborators of significance?
I visited the laboratory of Nardhy Gomez-Lopez at Wayne State University, Detroit. Here I gained an insight into the work being undertaken by her laboratory and also met other researchers in the NIH system.

Additionally, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Dr Stephen Krawetz and members of his laboratory. Dr Krawetz is a world-leading expert in RNA transcripts in sperm and his publications have been highly influential in my field.

We discussed new methods for extracting RNA from sperm and the research I am undertaking, which is seeking to understand how sperm transcripts, particularly miRNA may interact with the uterine epithelium to influence the female immune response to coitus. Dr Krawetz was interested in our work and offered to collaborate in the future if we felt his group could contribute to our work.

How has the experience supported you?
Attendance at this conference was key in furthering my career development.  I learnt about the latest research from my peers, presented my work and received feedback, and it broadened my scientific network by networking with scientists interested in reproductive immunology and senior Australian researchers.

What was the most exciting thing you experienced at the Conference?
Dr Enrica Bianchi presented her recently published in Nature research on identifying the binding partner for sperm Izumo during sperm-egg binding (identified as Folate receptor 4 and now termed Juno). While I had previously read this paper, it was fantastic to hear her explain the work, providing additional perspective to her discovery and the future work that lies ahead

What was the most interesting or unexpected moment of your travel?
Finding a good coffee shop in the USA. Every time I visit the US, coffee hasn’t been all that fantastic (maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places). Just up from the hotel I found this amazing coffee shop which I dropped by every morning before the conference started – definitely recommend Madcap coffee for anyone visiting Grand Rapids.

Would you recommend this experience to your friends/colleagues?
Definitely, I think the SSR conference is the major reproductive biology conference worldwide and is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about cutting edge reproductive biology and meet some fantastic scientists.

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