fbpx John Schjenken | HMRI

Dr John Schjenken

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What are your research Interests?

I'm interested in reproduction, infertility and immunology of reproduction.

Why did you get into research?

I had a variety of different interests during high school, but my greatest love was biology. My interest in reproductive science started in 2002 in first-year Biology at the University of Newcastle.

We were lucky enough to have a guest lecture from the world-renowned reproductive scientist Prof. John Aitken and I was fascinated by the biological processes that underpin the development of our gametes. Since then, I have spent my entire career working in Reproductive Science across both male and female reproductive biology and continue to be as fascinated by the fundamental biology of Reproduction as I was on that first day.

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

My research aims to advance our fundamental understanding of the male contribution to conception. We aim to identify modulators of male reproductive health carried by male seminal fluid and ultimately exploit this information for the development of therapeutic and interventional approaches to address the rising burden of infertility.

Brief Profile

Dr John Schjenken is a mid-career researcher within the Infertility and Reproduction theme of HMRI based at the University of Newcastle Callaghan campus. He is an internationally recognised leader in seminal fluid biology whose research has redefined how male factors influence the fundamental biology of events around conception that initiate healthy pregnancy

John’s research career commenced with his PhD at the Mothers and Babies Research Centre (HMRI) where he undertook research that developed a greater understanding of the immune regulatory role of retroviral envelope proteins (Syncytin proteins) that are expressed in the placenta. Through his PhD studies, John became fascinated by the important contributions of the immune system in reproduction and was recruited in a post-doctoral role to the University of Adelaide in the lab of Professor Sarah Robertson. Here his research transformed our knowledge of the importance of optimal programming of the maternal immune environment at conception.

In 2019, John returned to the University of Newcastle where he established a collaboration with Professor Brett Nixon, and established an independent research program that utilises both human and rodent models to expand understanding of male factors that contribute to infertility and disorders of pregnancy. To achieve this, I utilise multiomic approaches, combining transcriptomics, proteomics and bioinformatics to expand knowledge on male and female reproductive physiology.

Throughout his career, John has published a total of 38 scientific articles and delivered more than 20 invited presentations both nationally and internationally.

In recognition of his emerging standing in the field of reproductive biology, John has been a finalist in the Society for Reproductive Biology (Australia and New Zealand) Reproduction Emerging Research Leader Award (2019) and was selected as one of the six Rising Stars in Reproductive Biology (2021) by the Society for the Study of Reproduction (USA).

Future Focus

My current areas of research interest include:

  • Examining the impact of environmental exposures on seminal fluid immune regulatory factor synthesis.
  • Building knowledge of the significance of seminal fluid extracellular vesicles in female immune regulatory function.

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • Seminal fluid biology
  • Seminal vesicle biology
  • qPCR and RNA-sequencing
  • Reproductive Immunology


  • Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Science, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Discipline of Biological Sciences, The University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan, NSW, 2308, Australia.
  • Hunter Medical Research Institute, Infertility and Reproduction Research Program, New Lambton Heights, NSW, 2305, Australia.
  • Visiting fellow. The Robinson Research Institute and Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, 5005, Australia.