IA CRC PhD student learns from experts at the Smithsonian

As part of the IA CRC PhD Balanced Research Program, all students are required to undertake a period of industry placement. One of these students is Aleona Swegen from the University of Newcastle who is working on developing an immunocontraceptive agent for feral horses.

Aleona graduated with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (University of Sydney) in 2010 and moved to the Hunter Valley in order to work in mixed veterinary practice and pursue her interest in equine reproduction. She relocated to Newcastle in 2012 to undertake her PhD research under the supervision of Laureate Professor John Aitken.

Due to her strong interest in reproductive biology, Aleona recently spent six weeks at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington DC, working with expert researchers who are focused on preserving fertility in rare and endangered species.

During the six weeks, Aleona spent time in the lab helping with various projects, but also got to spend time at the US National Zoo and see some behind-the-scenes action, and visited the Smithsonian’s other research facility in Front Royal, Virginia which is an impressive 3,000 acre facility dedicated to conservation research.

Aleona said that during her experience she met some fantastic people and thanks Dr Pierre Comizzoli who was her host ‘supervisor’ while on placement.

“I definitely came back feeling inspired and knowing I’ve made the most of the Industry Placement and the opportunities it offers. It was a priceless experience and I’m very thankful to the IA CRC for encouraging us to get out of the comfort zone and for providing support and funding.”

Aleona has admired the Smithsonian and its renowned conservation work for a long time and is extremely grateful to have such an opportunity so early in her career! 

Aleona hopes to submit her thesis in August of this year and we wish her the best of luck.