2019 AETA Scholarship Winner Report: Kaitlin Karl

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Published on: January 3, 2020

When I learned that I had received an AETA 2019 Student Scholarship Award, my objectives for attending the conference were to gain industry insight on how to become a successful practitioner and to expand my knowledge of useful assisted reproductive techniques used in bovines, such as embryo flushing and oocyte pickups, that would be applicable to my own research.

However, while attending the 2019 AETA conference, I gained much more than I had expected. I gained industry insight that is beneficial to my future career goals by networking with practitioners and technicians, specifically by attending the student/mentor luncheon. The luncheon allowed students to interact with current AETA and CETA/ACTE professionals across various roles in the industry who were willing to entertain questions, share their experiences and hardships from throughout their careers, and offer valuable advice. Coming from a primarily academic background, I have struggled finding guidance and answers concerning aspects of transitioning from academia into the industry field. The professionals I interacted with were extremely personable, willing to help troubleshoot problems I have experienced in my research, and eager to teach new concepts.

The student/technician courses and wet laboratory sessions conducted by Dr. John Gibbons, assisted by BovaGen Embryo Technician Miles Morris, taught hands-on techniques for thawing and properly processing embryos to be frozen. This was my first experience preparing an embryo straw to be frozen, and being allowed the opportunity to attempt it independently in a low-pressure environment was very exciting.

The pre-conference Embryo Transfer 101 course presented by Drs. Randall Hinshaw and Greg Schueller also provided a great deal of information that I have been able to take back to Michigan State University with me and apply to my own research project, where I am attempting to flush Holstein heifers treated with excessive doses of follicle stimulating hormone to determine effect on embryo quality. The two separate techniques (in beef and dairy) described throughout the course for both donor and recipient heifers, as well as embryo collection and handling, were interesting and refreshing to compare numerous successful protocols.

This knowledge will directly benefit my research and academic work by allowing me to properly preform embryo flushes and have realistic expectations of collections, useful troubleshooting techniques, and the ability to share what I have learned with my colleagues. I believe that by attending this conference, I am returning to the university setting with a more confident outlook on the career path I want to pursue after completion of my doctoral degree. Discussing specifics with successful industry personnel from different backgrounds was a great experience that I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to do.

In addition to applicable techniques and useful advice, the 2019 AETA Conference was overall an enjoyable networking opportunity in a beautiful city. Being a member of the AETA community is an exciting opportunity that I look forward to continuing for many years.

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