Success Stories

Sperm in shape (University of León) Dr. Felipe Martínez-Pastor (RYC-2008-02339)

I got a Ramón y Cajal contract in the 2008 call and I am currently a contracted researcher at the University of León, (still) waiting for a chance to get a permanent position. My entire career has been devoted to the study of sperm biology, oriented to animal conservation, the improvement of artificial insemination in livestock and, recently, to the field of biomedicine. Up to date, I have participated in more than 70 peer-reviewed publications and almost 150 conference papers.

I graduated as a biologist at the University of León, and carried out my doctoral thesis on a rather exotic topic, the collection and cryopreservation of sperm from Iberian red deers. After many adventures both in the field and in the lab, I achieved my PhD. In parallel, I collaborated on projects with other species such as the brown bear. A very important aspect of this stage were the stays in research centers in Sweden and South Africa. Especially in the first case, I learned there what it is to research and publish.

I must admit that the most relevant research at this stage did not come from the lines of work in which I was working, but from my love of tinkering with gadgets and data. The two lines I started, and to which I own most of my success throughout my career, are the application of flow cytometry and statistical methods to spermatology.

Afterwards I carried out a postdoc with a Juan de la Cierva contract. I worked at the University of Castilla-La Mancha and the Institute for Wildlife Research (IREC) in the group of Dr. Julian Garde, currently Vice-Chancellor for Research at this University. During this time, I began to study oxidative stress and the effect of antioxidants on spermatozoa from several species. Meanwhile, I started to develop my own line on the study of sperm chromatin, which I had already explored during my doctoral thesis. Furthermore, I realized stays and collaborations at the University of Algarve (Portugal) and the Chicago Zoological Society (USA) to apply my knowledge in spermatology to the fields of aquaculture and animal conservation, respectively.

I must mention that during these early stages of my career I actively collaborated with the Federation of Young Scientists (FJI / Precarious), both as coordinator of various commissions and, occasionally, president of it. I must acknowledge its efforts and achievements, finishing (largely) the use of research grants without labor rights, and has greatly contributed to improve the Spanish research system (despite the dismantling of recent years).

After three years, I got the Ramón y Cajal contract, joining the Institute of Livestock and Animal Health Development at the University of León in 2009. There I installed a laboratory for spermatology research, where I developed a line to use molecular tools to analyse sperm DNA damage. I also established collaborations with various groups in Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and France. I have also been teaching in the Department of Molecular Biology, and participated on two Masters, at the University of León and at the University of Oviedo. Three years ago I started to apply my research for providing analytical and research services, performing analysis of sperm quality for several clinics for assisted reproduction and a for a cattle multinational company. Moreover, I have obtained three patents on these issues. As a result, I presented a business idea for a spin-off to the contest “University Business Incubator Promoters” in 2014, achieving the second prize of the call.

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