Travel story: Shanna Hosking
Shanna Hosking from the Robinson Research Institute travelled to the United States to attend Frontiers in Reproduction Course and Conference from late-April to mid-June.
Shanna attended Frontiers in Reproduction from 29.4.23-12.6.23, a course dedicated to teaching attendees about new concepts and skills to help them in academic careers going forward. They learnt a lot about different models, different techniques, and lots about how science is conducted overseas. They worked with xenopus, nematodes, drosophila, and mice all within the context of reproduction.
They disseminated their research findings to colleagues, and they now have an international network of people they can contact at any time. There was a lot of opportunities to align international post doc prospects for their future. They discussed the HPG axis and methods to assess hormones, brain/gland function and the axis in general, they learnt microinjection of both oocytes and embryos, and they learnt a lot about embryonic development and placental sectioning. Each section had guest experts from all over the US and the course overall provided a unique, highly collaborative environment to focus on our advanced learning.
List labs or research facilities visited
We spent our time at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. We had two visiting researchers per day from various institutions across the US, all experts in their fields. We spent 9-11am and 7-9pm in these lectures and 11am-7pm we spent in the lab, learning new techniques and applying new concepts to new models. There was a broad overview of reproductive science, and the current state of research in the field. We also attended a symposium at the end of the course where I presented my work to current attendees “FIRbee”, alumni, and visiting researchers. Overall, the course provided new perspectives which helped me consider next steps post-PhD and taught me a lot.
Please provide details on any researchers or collaborators of significance that you met at the conference and why they are important to your work?
I met multiple people who were not only influential to the way that I think about my current work, but also had conversations with me about future work that had me excited about future potential post docs. Paulo Rinaudo (FIRbee from 2003, Wendy Ingham’s cohort!) from UCSF spoke about DOHaD repercussions of reproductive technologies and was really interested in the immunological components of my work. I are currently investigating offspring in my PhD studies, so he really broadened my perspective, taught me a lot and had me thinking about a post doc in the USA. Lisa Vrooman from WSU is an ECR/MCR who also works in the DOHaD field and just started in the primate facility in Oregon. She was interesting; her group is newer, and I think her work was fascinating.
What was a highlight of the travel?
Attending Frontiers in Reproduction 2023 really highlighted to me how valuable and important it is for ECRs in Australia to have international reach. It was clear to me why the Robinson Research Institute values international travel and collaboration for its members, as we have a strong international reputation. The connections made at FIR are remembered and discussed for years, decades even, and I am thrilled to now be a part of this.
For me, an absolute highlight was the network of peers and visiting researchers that I will have relationships with for life. The connections that I spent 6 weeks fostering are ones that I will cherish for a lifetime, both personally and professionally. I received great feedback on my work from colleagues during this course, and I made connections that I would relish the opportunity to work with as collaborators or with future positions that may come about.
How will the experience support you and your research going forward?
This experience has me thinking differently about my work in general, and about my PhD moving forward. I’ll also be thinking a lot more about potential future next steps and post-doc positions, especially in the United States. I’m glad to have a developed a good foundation of American friends to lean on for advice. There was so many things we learned in such a short amount of time. I think the most valuable thing was the broad variety in reproductive research techniques that we experienced. This really allowed for a late-stage PhD student like me to think about what my future looked like, and if my current work is something I want to continue with or do I want to switch my work into a different field for a post-doc. I also can’t understate the importance of the cohort of FIRbees and visiting speakers that we spent a lot of time getting to know and develop an ongoing network with.
What was the most exciting thing you learned/experienced as part of your travel?
The most exciting things I learned were oocyte injection and fetal developmental staging. The most exciting experience was partaking in Laurinda Jaffe’s marine animal fertilisation lesson where I hatched a baby skate, held the biggest whelk I’ve ever seen, and held a horseshoe crab.
What was the most interesting or unexpected moment of your travel?
We worked with nematodes as part of the Frontiers in Reproduction course. I’ve never worked with worms before, so I didn’t know that worm sperm are like amoeba that crawl back into the hermaphrodite to fertilise the next oocytes (so cool), or how many different mutations there (bag o’ worms’ mutation to create a model of infertility). I didn’t know that you could freeze worms down in the -80oC and they’re still live when you defrost them. Worms are an interesting and valuable model in reproductive research!