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Michel Koo - June 2017

Michel Koo is a professor of orthodontics, pediatric dentistry & community oral health, and director of biofilm research at the Levy Center for Oral Health, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Koo’s research has focused on understanding the relationship between biofilms and oral infectious diseases, and seeking novel therapeutic strategies to control dental caries by fostering cross-disciplinary interactions, including with bioengineering and nanotechnology. He has served as a standing member of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) as well as in scientific committees of AADR/IADR. He also served as associate director of the NIDCR training program for dentist-scientists and oral biologists. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Dental Research. He has authored over 100 scientific articles (including publications in Science, ACS Nano, Biomaterials, PLoS Pathogens, Journal of Dental Research, Infection & Immunity, Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy) and five patent applications. He has received numerous awards for his research contributions including IADR Distinguished Scientist Award and IADR Innovation in Oral Care Award, and has been funded by NIH, NSF and USDA. He has mentored over 15 graduate and post-doctoral students, five of whom were recipients of the AADR Hatton Awards.

How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I first participated at the AADR meeting in 1999 when my PhD mentor, Dr. Jaime Cury recommended I present at the meeting.  Later, working with the late Dr. William Bowen, he also emphasized the importance of being part of the AADR and attending the meeting. Over the years, the AADR has been indeed a wonderful place for meeting like-minded people, networking, and finding collaborators, which were critical for my career growth and development. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
The ability to spread your research findings through presentations and scientific discussions at the meetings or through the publication is the greatest benefit of AADR.  AADR stimulates collaborations and introduces members to new ideas. The networking with peers is key, and affords students and post-docs an opportunity to grow their network and career opportunities.  An organization such as AADR makes it easy to help guide the career paths for our students and open them to new research areas. 

What do you want to see in the future for AADR?
The most important activity for the future is to continue to nourish and provide a platform to help develop the career of the next generation of future dental researchers.  The meeting offers this opportunity, but I envision sessions dedicated to junior investigators to present their research and stimulate their interest in academia. In addition, networking receptions for junior faculty to meet and interact with potential mentors and senior faculty to help promote their research careers as well as establish new collaborations.

What is the best way for other members to become more involved in AADR?
For aspiring young investigators, I would suggest getting involved in award competitions, such as the Hatton competition. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet your peers, assess the current research landscape, and who knows a chance to develop scientific interactions. Also, getting involved as volunteer within your AADR Section and in committees or IADR Research Groups.  Being involved can help you fell more engaged and also advance the mission of AADR. 

How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
Cross-collaboration should be the top priority for dental research.  The landscape for science and funding has changed tremendously over the years.  It is vital to reach out to the other disciplines to enhance your scientific discoveries while also helping with funding opportunities. I have been very fortunate to find amazing collaborators outside of my field that greatly elevated our research program. I believe that continuous cross-collaboration with other disciplines (particularly outside of dentistry) will lead our field to far-reaching discoveries that can benefit the biomedical community as a whole. 

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