In October 2013, the 5th Annual Illinois Symposium on Reproductive Sciences (ISRS) meeting will be hosted by Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, IL. Many pioneers in reproductive biology performed groundbreaking research that established Illinois at the forefront of reproductive science investigation. This mantle has been assumed by a new generation of scientists who have been successful in maintaining this legacy of creative, interdisciplinary, well-funded, and highly respected research. This faculty, as well a the trainees they have mentored, have become preeminent leaders in germane professional societies such as the Society for the Study of Reproduction, the Endocrine Society, the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the American Association for Cancer Research. The ISRS meeting has firm roots in the long running minisymposium organized by the Center for Reproductive Sciences at Northwestern University. In 2009, the ISRS meeting was organized as a statewide annual meeting rotating among four host institutions. Merging the Northwestern University minisymposium with the long standing biannual reproductive biology meeting between the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the ISRS brought SIU into the shared arena with the prior meetings. The ISRS meeting serves to showcase the quality of research in reproductive sciences, both in fertility and disease, within Illinois institutions and fosters collaborations and the exchange of scientific discoveries across the Midwest. The objective of the ISRS meeting is to promote the exchange of information to advance our collective understanding of the mammalian reproductive tract both in normal function and in diseased states. Because the majority of the attendees are concentrated in the Midwest, many lasting collaborations stem from these meetings that have proven both productive and easy to maintain. Since its inception, the ISRS meeting has seen an annual increase in the number of abstract submissions both from Illinois and surrounding states. The founding pillar of the ISRS meeting is to provide an opportunity for our trainees to interact with senior leaders in our field. This extends to the organization of the meeting as well, as the trainee program committee is solely responsible for organizing the scientific sessions into thematic groups and selection of trainee platform speakers. In contrast to many regional meetings where a bevy of established names are used to draw in participation, the ISRS keynote speaker serves as the centerpiece for the celebration of trainee-driven research which comprises 75% of the time allotted to oral presentations (In 2012, trainees presented 15 talks and 84 posters). The trainee research competition has been of high quality with only a narrow margin separating award winners from the bulk of the pack. The ISRS presentations are designed to serve as a foundation for critical discussion by all participants of questions, gaps in understanding, controversies, and new technologies that are allowing us to identify the central regulators of gonad development and function, and develop inroads to reduce infertility and treat reproductive disorders.
The rationale of this proposal is to request funds to partially support the Annual Illinois Symposium on Reproductive Sciences (ISRS) to be held in October 2013. The mission of the ISRS is to promote the productive exchange of ideas, to perpetuate the environment in which trainees and young investigators, as well as senior scientists can present their work in an academic setting. To this end, since its inception in 2009, 45% of ISRS participants have been trainees and ~25% were junior scientists, producing an important training opportunity in line the goal of making a significant impact on the training of young investigators in order to advance reproductive science and bring fresh ideas to translational research involving the reproductive tract. The Annual Illinois Symposium on Reproductive Sciences (ISRS) plays a key role in the development of the careers of reproductive biologists during all phases of their training and beyond. All aspects of multidisciplinary research in the reproductive sciences are covered at the meeting including: basic mechanisms regulating male and female gonad development and function, gene regulation and cell signaling in the reproductive tract (testes, ovaries, oviduct, uterus, vagina, epididymis, vas deferens, and prostate), fetal-maternal interaction, the placenta, and the impact of metabolic dysfunction on fertility. An additional focus of the meeting is to highlight advances in translational research concerning medical issues of the reproductive tract, most notably cancer, but also deficiencies caused by aging, congenital defects, endocrine deficiencies, obesity, and infertility.