Student Spotlight February 2016
Jae pursued an early college program at the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University in high school and graduated in 2011 with both a high school diploma and college credits. Two years later, he graduated with a BS in Mathematics from the University of Kentucky and joined the DMD/PhD dual degree program through the UofL School of Dentistry (ULSD) and Graduate School.
ULSD had many of the things I was looking for in a professional/graduate school, namely supportive faculty and peers in addition to strong research and clinical reputation. Considering these strengths, I was confident that the school would prepare me well in becoming a competent dentist-scientist.
My research focuses on unveiling the mechanisms behind oral bacterial interactions that may lead to a severe periodontal disease. Specifically, I am looking at how oral bacteria use their surface proteins to adhere to each other and how strongly these surface proteins interact with each other. Studying such protein-protein interaction interested me as findings can lead to the identification of potential therapeutic targets.
There are bugs living in your mouth that like to stick to each other and may cause a gum disease. If I can find out how they stick to each other, then maybe I can exploit that to prevent them from sticking to each other in the first place.
The idea of being at the intersection between basic science and clinics strongly appealed to me. Not only do I get to understand both sides of the world, I may also be able to translate research findings into something that can be incorporated into day-to-day clinical practice more efficiently. Also, while I’m still in the pre-clinical phase of the program, the satisfaction obtained from successfully treating patients in a dental operatory would be just as exciting as carrying out new experiments in a research lab.
Basic Sciences Award, ULSD
ULSD delegate to Colgate Dental Students’ Conference on Research
F30 National Research Service Award, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Hopefully, the dual degrees will help me create a more positive and broader impact on society whether it’s through making interesting scientific discoveries or through relieving people of dental pain.
The faculty, staff, and peers have been very supportive throughout my studies here. Being part of this cooperative environment has thus been my favorite part.
Favorite book: Water for Elephants
Favorite quote: “Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right.”
If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? The premise is unthinkable!