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Jan Ching Chun Hu, B.D.S., Ph.D - January 2016

Harris collegiate professor of dentistry in the Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor. There, she is also director academic program, Oral Health Science Ph.D. Program, in the School of Dentistry. 

She earned her Bachelor of Dental Surgery from the National Taiwan University School of Dentistry; and her Doctor of Philosophy and certificate in pediatric dentistry from the University of Southern California, School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, USA. She also completed her post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, University of Southern California, School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, USA. 

Hu has a long and distinguished career in the field of mineralized tissue research where her primary emphasis is on the tissues that make up the mammalian tooth. She has made major contributions to the science of enamel formation, genetics and biomineralization. 

Her research has won many accolades, including the 2001 and 2005 IADR/AADR William J. Gies Award, given for the best paper published in the Journal of Dental Research; and most recently the 2015 IADR Distinguished Scientist Award in Basic Research in Biological Mineralization. Since joining AADR in 1991, she has served on several IADR/AADR committees, including the AADR Constitution Committee, the AADR Fellowships Committee and the JDR Editorial Board to name a few.

How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I first heard about AADR when I was a Ph.D. student, through my mentor. It was the expectation of my mentor that we present our work and be able to convey what we did in the lab to other people in the scientific field. My mentor encouraged me to attend my first AADR meeting and that’s how I ended up joining the Association. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
The most valuable benefit of my AADR membership is having the opportunity to talk to collaborators face to face in an open and interactive environment, which has been instrumental because the AADR setting is intellectually stimulating. In the setting of the meetings I can talk about science but at the same time, there is the atmosphere of social interaction. It’s an effective setting to encourage scientific exchange and acquisition of advances and breakthrough in many areas of dental sciences. 

What are you currently researching?
Our research program focuses on tooth development. We started identifying genes that control tooth enamel and dentin formation. We went on to establish animal models that allowed us to study specifically if a gene is absent how it will affect tooth development. From there we went on to recruit human families with tooth defects. Based on the genetic information that we learned, we identified the specific genetic mutations that are responsible for human tooth defects. We have many long-term interactions with collaborators at the Istanbul University, National Taiwan University, the Forsyth Institute and the University of Pennsylvania. Many, if not all, of our collaborators are also AADR/IADR members. We often meet at the meetings to plan out projects.

How important is it for you to cross-collaborate with other scientific disciplines and scientists to achieve your research and advance the field? 
It is critical because our primary focus is developmental and clinical genetics. Broad based collaboration allows us to recruit a diverse pool of study cases, apply specific research approaches and incorporate collaborators’ expertise toward advancing projects. We work closely with scientists who share the scientific interests and passion so that together we can better understand tooth development and enamel mineralization, which is a positive result of the collaboration. 

How has being an AADR member helped to advance your career?
Starting very early on, being a Ph.D. student and post-doc follow, I was encouraged to attend the AADR meetings and present my research. As a student, if I had not had that encouragement and the support of my mentor, I don’t think I would have consistently attended the AADR meetings and have the ability to interact with experts and trainees in the field. Since then, attending the meetings has become a very important part of my scientific and academic endeavor. Specifically, now I am directing the Ph.D. training program at the University of Michigan, I feel attending the AADR meetings is becoming an important venue for the trainees entering dental research. In their initial years of training, they may not have research results to present but it’s beneficial for them to attend the meetings and talk to other trainees, program graduates and faculty. Doing so may help them solidify their career goals and develop a comprehensive understanding of how AADR can help in terms of scientific and academic career development.

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