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Travel Story: Dr John Schjenken

John SchjenkenDr John Schjenken from the Robinson Research Institute’s Reproductive Immunology Research Group attended the Joint Annual Scientific Meetings of the Endocrine Society of Australia, the Society for Reproductive Biology in Gold Coast in August 2016.

John presented his research on Unknown sperm-associated TLR4 ligands act as signalling molecules in the female reproductive tract at coitus.

This is what John had to say about his experience:

What was a highlight of the conference?

At a personal level, this was the first time my work was presented at SRB outside of an immune associated symposium. Here I was presenting in a sperm biology session which was really valuable for me to have the opportunity to present my research to a different audience but also to learn about the advances in sperm biology.

Did you meet any researchers or collaborators of significance? Why are they important to your work?

Through the RRI 2015 Innovation Seed Funding grant that I received with Dr Tod Fullston, we established a collaboration with Associate Professor Mark Baker from the University of Newcastle. Throughout this project we had collected samples of seminal plasma and sperm to send to him for proteomics and attendance at this conference allowed us to touch base with Mark and arrange the next steps forward and to prepare for us sending samples through to him.

I was also fortunate to discuss collaborations with Professor Ken Beagley from Queensland University of Technology who does research into the effects of chlamydia on the male reproductive tract. Since these initial discussions, Professor Sarah Robertson and I have had a conference call with Ken discussing the potential to use his male chronic chlamydial infection models to examine cryptic female choice and the female response to seminal fluid. These collaborations have the potential to lead to future publications and potentially grant applications.

How will the experience support you and your research going forward?

Attendance at the SRB conference and membership of the SRB council (as ECR rep from 2015-16 and now newsletter secretary, 2016 onwards) helps me build networks of potential collaborators and helps me be recognised by future grant reviewers. The presentation I gave at this conference was directly related to my DECRA application and provided strong evidence that we are already making advances towards the proposed experiments.

What was the most exciting thing you learned/experienced at the Conference?

Hard to highlight just one particular symposia as the conference had a fantastic program. I really enjoyed the Reproduction Down Under symposia which highlighted some of the research being performed in native species as well as coral. In the session that I spoke in, there was some fantastic work coming out of Brett Nixon’s laboratory at the University of Newcastle showing that epididymosomes (nanovesicles secreted by epididymis) can deliver miRNAs to sperm during epididymal transit.

What was the most interesting or unexpected moment of your travel?

Visiting the Great Barrier Reef as part of the IPRD satellite symposium. I even saw a whitetip reef shark.

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