Frontiers In Reproduction (FIR) Course

Katie Wozniak attended the 2017 Frontiers in Reproduction course at Woods Hole. Below she answered some questions on her experience!

  View of MBL campus across Eel Pond. Photo credit: Katie Wozniak

View of MBL campus across Eel Pond. Photo credit: Katie Wozniak

When and where did you attend the Frontiers in Reproduction (FIR) course?

The course took place between April 30 and June 10, 2017 at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

  An ascidian egg viewed with a microscope. Photo credit: Katie Wozniak.

An ascidian egg viewed with a microscope. Photo credit: Katie Wozniak.

When did you apply and what was the application process like?

I applied to the course during December 2016. For the application I put together a statement of goals, my CV, a list of my publications, and answers to a questionnaire they provided. Additionally, I needed two letters of recommendation. Here is the link to submit applications: http://www.mbl.edu/fir/apply/  

What was a typical day at FIR like?

The days at FIR are packed with science. Often the morning lecture, lab experiment, and evening lecture are on different topics and thus are presented by different scientists from around the country.

A typical day starts with breakfast in the cafeteria at 8am, followed lecture from 9-11am. From lecture students go to lab, where they are given an introduction to the experiment for that day. Following lunch in Swope, students return to lab for the afternoon (usually until 6pm). After dinner, students have an evening lecture from 7-9pm, which is often followed by going out with the visiting professors to Captain Kidd for drinks.

What was your favorite section?

Out of the three sections, my favorite was "Stem cells, Gametogenesis, Fertilization, and Preimplantation Embryo," which was overseen by Dr. Carmen Williams. Particularly, I enjoyed the labs in this section, such as: Spermatogenic germ cell transplantation (with Dr. Kyle Orwig), confocal imaging of Drosophila reproductive tracts (with Dr. Mariana Wolfner), marine fertilization (with Dr. Laurinda Jaffe), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (with Dr. Paula Stein), and patch clamping sperm (with Dr. Polina Lishko).

What was your favorite aspect of the course?

With up to 3 new professors per day, there was always an opportunity to talk to someone new. The visiting professors were open for discussions during lectures, labs, and meals. Not only did they provide expert knowledge in their designated fields of study, but they also provided advice regarding grant writing, applying for post-docs/professorships, etc.

What advice would you give to future FIR attendees?

FIR is not a vacation! For six weeks you will be immersed in labs, lectures, and discussions from 9am - 9pm (at least!). It is an exhilarating and exhausting process!

  View from the computer monitor during intracytoplasmic sperm injection into a mouse egg. Photo credit: Katie Wozniak.

View from the computer monitor during intracytoplasmic sperm injection into a mouse egg. Photo credit: Katie Wozniak.


  Dr. Polina Lishko and I celebrating my patch clamped sperm! Photo credit: Katie Wozniak

Dr. Polina Lishko and I celebrating my patch clamped sperm! Photo credit: Katie Wozniak

How was this course related to your dissertation research and why were you interested in attending?

During my graduate studies in the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Pittsburgh, I am working toward obtaining a Ph.D. under the advisement of Dr. Anne Carlson. My research utilizes electrophysiological techniques to study the signaling mechanisms that arise moments before and after fertilization in the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis. Specifically, I aim to understand the sperm-induced cellular signaling that initiates the fast block to polyspermy in this species. During my graduate career, I seek expertise not only in fertilization, but also in electrical signaling. The three sections of the FIR course offered me expert knowledge regarding these processes, including: 1) Signal Transduction and Gene Regulation in the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Gonadal Axis, 2) Stem cells, Gametogenesis, Fertilization, and Preimplantation Embryo, and 3) Male and Female Reproductive Tract Development, Function and Disease.

What are you most proud of?

With 20 students in the course, we broke into small groups to put together publications for the journal Molecular Reproduction and Development. Using images we took during the course, each group put together Visions articles. My group (Guillermina Maria Luque, Soo Hyun Ahn, and I) used confocal images we captured of calcium signaling that occurs in response to fertilization in starfish: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28667774

Other Visions articles created during the course can be found here:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28661063

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28636161

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28636231

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28940399

  2017 FIRbees and instructors. Photo provided by Katie Wozniak.

2017 FIRbees and instructors. Photo provided by Katie Wozniak.

Anne Carlson