Biology Professor Awarded the Central Michigan University 2023 President’s Award

Jennifer Schisa received the Central Michigan University 2023 President’s Award

| Author: Ellie Heron | Media Contact: Kara Owens

Biology professor Jennifer Schisa was awarded the Central Michigan University 2023 President’s Award. This award can only be won once in a professor’s career at CMU and celebrates the success a senior faculty member has had throughout their time here. “It’s a huge honor, I have to say. There are lots of great researchers on this campus,” says Schisa.  

Schisa has been a professor at CMU for 20 years, teaching biology and conducting research on RNA and female fertility issues. Her interest in egg viability began during her post-doctorate research, where she worked in a developmental biology lab and began noticing differences in the appearances of old eggs, compared to young eggs. While she didn’t know that this would become her main research topic, she knew it was something that interested her. “It was the possibility that maybe what we were looking at through the microscope would eventually provide some hints as to why there’s an age-related issue with infertility in women,” Schisa explained. “What we really want to understand is the causes of infertility and try to seek some solutions to reduce infertility problems in women.” 

Throughout her time here, Schisa has completed many research projects. One of the things she’s most proud of though, is her ongoing grant funding. In 2006, Schisa received the first NIH grant ever awarded to a faculty member in the CMU biology department. She has had ongoing grant funding ever since, allowing her to support many students who do research in her lab. Schisa has worked with nearly 100 students in her lab across her time here, five of whom have gone on to become professors themselves.  

In addition to grant support, Schisa says, “improvements in the facilities in the biology department have enabled more cutting-edge research for my lab and others.” Schisa also appreciates the support from CMU to provide time for grant-funded faculty to do more research and support student research. One example of a recent change is the newly developed biochemistry, cell, and molecular biology Ph.D. program, which has allowed Schisa to take on her first doctoral student four years ago and take on two more in the upcoming year. “I’ve been able to do more than I ever really thought was possible,” says Schisa.  

Schisa attributes much of her success to the people she works with. “When I look back, I’m just really appreciative of all of the support I’ve gotten [from] the Biology department, [and] the College of Science and Engineering; the support comes from all directions,” she says. “Nobody can do this by themselves… It’s not happening in a vacuum; it really happens with help from lots of people.”  

Going forward, Schisa’s lab will continue its research on fertility issues, and the quality of RNA in eggs over time, potentially expanding beyond just fertility. According to Schisa, “we’re seeing connections with what we’re doing that reach far beyond the question of infertility, into how cells maintain their quality in general.” The President’s award has pushed Schisa to work harder, as she states that “it’s kind of poignant in a way, because when you hit the 20-year mark you get reflective… when you receive that appreciation it’s motivating, and it makes you want to keep working hard to find the answers to these big questions.” 

This story is brought to you by the  Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

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