February 2018 - Carmem Pfeifer
Carmem Pfeifer, D.D.S., Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry, Division of Biomaterials and Biomechanics at OHSU School of Dentistry. She obtained her D.D.S. and Ph.D. from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, focusing on polymerization stress development in resin composites. She then did a post-doc fellowship (2008-2011) at the University of Colorado, with emphasis in Polymer Chemistry and real-time, optically coupled material characterization. Pfeifer has published over 70 research articles and book chapters in the field of Dental Materials Sciences and Polymer Chemistry, reaching an H factor of 21, according to Scopus. She serves as the reviewer for over 40 journals in polymer science and biomaterials, as well as for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at NIH.
Pfeifer’s research focuses on the development of innovative polymeric materials for restorative dentistry and broader biomaterials and engineering applications. She is also interested on the development of analytical tools to characterize polymer properties evolution in real-time. Her research and career development is funded by NIDCR, the Oregon Medical Foundation and industry partners. She recently received the Discovery Award from the Women in Academic Medicine committee at OHSU.
How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I first learned about IADR back in 1990 through the Brazilian Division, so I’ve known about IADR and AADR for many years now. When I was in graduate school, I presented my first poster at a combined IADR and AADR meeting. As a young researcher, I was mesmerized by the sheer size of the meeting and the opportunity to present my findings and interact with other people. I remember sitting shoulder to shoulder with some of my idols and thought “this is awesome!” I’ve always been encouraged by my mentors to participate and immerse myself in the science and the meetings are a great place to do that.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
The first thing that comes to mind is what brought me in — the opportunity to participate in the meetings and disseminate my work. But the most important thing for me right now are the initiatives for young investigators. Senior researchers get to see the pipeline of future researchers and junior researchers can network and expand their careers. Another key factor for me is the advocacy role AADR plays — that is huge. Without advocacy work for funding, researchers perish. It’s all about policy too. If you don’t have strong advocates for research we would be stalled — I truly appreciate the work that AADR does.
What do you want to see in the future for AADR?
I believe that we need to continue to focus on young and mid-career investigators. We want to keep the field going, especially when there is discouragement about the funding climate. I also believe we can join the national movement to bring more women into STEM careers. AADR does a good job of providing opportunities focused on facilitating those populations but any other ways we can encourage and educate this younger generation will be beneficial for the field as a whole.
What is the best way for other members to become more involved in AADR?
I always encourage people to get to know their local chapters. Local chapters are a port of entry for members to get even more involved with governance, volunteering, meetings or being a reviewer of abstracts. For me it’s very rewarding to serve for AADR and I want to help lead the path that we are taking. First I was an abstract reviewer, then I was a subgroup program chair, then treasurer and secretary, and now I was elected vice-president of the Dental Materials Group. I am also currently the president of the AADR Portland Section. I got involved by actively seeking these roles. Pay attention to the emails that are sent — there are plenty of opportunities and with many you can self-nominate.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
Crucial! In this day and age we are past that model of doing research in silos — nowadays you can’t survive like that. If you want to do breakthrough science and actually help the public, which is our ultimate goal, you must collaborate. To view a research area in a broader sense, you need input from researchers in other disciplines. Collaborators from a different area can take an old problem and shed new light. It makes the findings that much more relevant, practical and applicable — you are able to increase the impact of your work.