Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA
Research Interests: Signal Transduction During Sperm Capacitation, Fertilization Process, Male Germ Cell Differentiation, Epididymal Maturation.
As an undergraduate, Pablo Visconti studied Chemistry at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. He completed his Biological Chemistry Ph.D. dissertation in 1991 in the same University on the topic of hamster sperm capacitation. His Ph.D. adviser was Dr. Jorge Tezon. After finishing his Ph.D., he had postdoctoral training in Dr. Gregory Kopf’s laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. During this period, he published work that associated capacitation with the increase in tyrosine phosphorylation and the role of cAMP and Protein Kinase A in regulating this signaling process. He became Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts in 2003 and received tenure in 2011. At present, he continues his research on the molecular basis of sperm capacitation. At the translational level, he is interested in methods to induce fertilizing capacity in sperm otherwise sterile. He is also interested in using testis-specific protein kinases as targets for male contraception.
Q: How was your interest in field of andrology developed?
Dr. Visconti: I finished my licenciate in Chemistry (equivalent to a M.S.) and decided to do my Ph.D. in biological chemistry. I was always interested in signal transduction and there was an opening in the laboratory of Dr. Jorge Tezon at the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine in Buenos Aires to study cAMP synthesis in hamster sperm. Since joining Dr. Tezon’s laboratory, I learned about the relevance of capacitation for the development of in vitro fertilization and I became interested in investigating the pathways that allow the sperm to acquire the capacity to fertilize.
Q: Tell us about the work that you are most proud of.
Dr. Visconti: After finishing my Ph.D. in Argentina, I joined Dr. Gregory Kopf’s laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, Medical School in Philadelphia, PA. There, in addition to Greg, I had the opportunity to be in an amazing intellectual environment of professors, postdocs and graduate students, among them George Gerton, Stuart Moss, Bayard Storey, Richard Schultz, Petr Kalab, Pierre Leclerc, Alex Travis, Janice Bailey, Janice Evans, Paula Stein and Grace Moore. In addition, Dr. Patricia Olds-Clarke did a sabbatical in Greg’s laboratory during that period. In collaboration with all of them, I initiated the studies on the role of cAMP regulating the increase in tyrosine phosphorylation during capacitation. Two back-to-back papers were published from this research in which we show that capacitation is associated with a protein kinase A-dependent increase in tyrosine phosphorylation. Those works are the ones that I am most proud of. Most recently, I have the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Ryuzo Yanagimachi, this collaboration was published last year and it is also one of the works I feel more proud of, this is because of the finding that signaling events required for capacitation can be overcome in vitro by increasing intracellular calcium and because this work gave me the opportunity to work with Dr. Yanagimachi, one of the scientists I admired the most since I was a Ph.D. student in Buenos Aires.
Q: Describe your typical day at work.
Dr. Visconti: As professor, the typical day at work includes meetings with the students, seminars, journal clubs, teaching and many committees. I usually try to concentrate the activities in different periods during the year and some of them are more dedicated to research while during other periods I focus in teaching and University service. I am always planning to go back to the bench and do experiments, maybe this next semester.
Q: What is the key to success in the field of andrology, given the impact of recession/lack of grants?
Dr. Visconti: It is difficult to say. However, I would rank first the finding of good collaborators and learning from them. During the years I have the opportunity to collaborate with many researchers in different countries. In particular, I would like to mention Dr. Alberto Darszon, Dr. Sylvie Breton, Dr. Patricia Cuasnicu, Dr. Mariano Buffone, Dr. Dario Krapf, Dr. Yanagimachi and also former members of my group. In addition to finding good colleagues to share your success with, I would also mention the time dedicated to the projects and the ability to follow and to develop your ideas.
Q: What has been the impact of the ASA membership in your career?
Dr. Visconti: This question is associated to the previous one. ASA has given me the opportunity to interact with the best scientists in our field. Collaborations and ideas develop most of the times from meetings such as the one offer by ASA annually.
Q: One advice you would like to give to students entering in this field.
Dr. Visconti: Be open to new ideas, interact as much as possible with your colleagues, learn how to write and never underestimate the importance of seminars and journal clubs.