How science made me feel like a VIP back-stage celebrity!

Jonathan Molina

Research allows me to be the very first to see and understand a new piece of information. As soon as the results pop up on the screen, no one else in the world knows about their existence but me and my lab mates.

At this moment in history, I have marked this small hiking hill of information with my flag. As rewarding as this experience is, I was not prepared for the momentous occasion science would bring to me after my first year in graduate school. 

As enthusiastic as I am about the latest research in reproductive sciences, I have found that when I start casually throwing around reproduction terms in conversations with my friends, it can make them slightly uncomfortable, which can put a damper on any good discussion.

The Society for the Study of Reproduction’s annual conference brings senior and student researchers together, giving them a platform to talk about the cutting edge research and technology in our field without the fear of making others uncomfortable, which can lead to those inevitable strange looks from across the table. 

This year, the conference was held in New Orleans; about a four-hour plane ride from San Diego. I have never stepped out of California, nor have I ever flown in an airplane.

So before even arriving at the conference, science had already given me new experiences. You could ask me how long I was at the airport, or how ready I was to present my poster, but all I can remember is that first takeoff. No rollercoaster could have prepared me for the loud jets or the bounciness of the plane moving on the runway. It was eerie, but auspiciously so, because as we lifted off I saw the dramatic downtown skyscrapers of San Diego become minute glimpses, as if I was zooming out on a microscope; that was a reward all on its own. 

The conference was jam-packed with experts in the fields of fertility, endocrinology, developmental biology, and many other specialties.

One of my introductory books into endocrinology was a textbook edited by Dr. Kenneth Korach, whom I was able to casually meet in the lobby. It was like having a VIP access pass at a concert! His book covered the effects of toxins on gonadal tissue and development that also happened to be a large focus of the conference.

For example, a paper I read earlier in the year proposed a method to evaluate BPA-free plastics, and this study was presented by the author at the conference. I felt the same sense of excitement that one feels when hearing their favorite album performed live.

My own presentation went well and I was able to not only answer questions regarding my research, but also had the opportunity to meet with other scientists and students in related fields. Being able to talk about my research to anyone passing by, using reproduction specific jargon, without having people look at you funny, was exceedingly delightful.

I remember my neighboring presenter and I practicing on each other and passing our audiences back and forth. I spoke largely about testicular tissue and she about sperm, so the transition was easy. The rest of the days, when I did not have to present, I was able to attend many other presentations that ran the gamut from clinical applications of research to molecular aspects of reproductive processes. 

Although happy to be home, I am excited and look forward to my next exchange with science, when I will add to the scientific community’s information bank, and in return gain new experiences.

Note: Jonathan Molina is a graduate student from California State University San Marcos working with Reproductive Sciences staff. 

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