USC University of Southern California

Both Students and Scientists

 

Though he’s not yet a full-fledged dentist, Andrew Kiss DDS ’13 already has professional prestige as an author of a published scientific article, thanks to a unique research opportunity provided by the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.

Kiss participated in the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology’s Summer Research Program during the summer of 2009 and was mentored by Keith Bromley, a postdoctoral fellow at the CCMB, and Professor Janet Moradian-Oldak. Kiss is the second author of “Dissecting Amelogenin Protein Nanospheres: Characterization of Metastable Oligomers,” which was published in the October 7 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

“It feels really amazing to publish,” Kiss said.

The research that Kiss participated in was aimed at examining the folding and function of the amelogenin protein, an integral part of dental enamel development. Bromley, first author on the article, said the proteins are able to form nanospheres, or spherical groupings of 50 to 100 amelogenin molecules. He added that it was possible to determine the nanospheres’ characteristics by examining how they scatter, absorb, fluoresce and rotate light using a number of spectroscopic procedures.

By exposing the amelogenin to different conditions, including changes in pH, ion concentration, and temperature, before performing spectroscopy, the team was able to examine what conditions seemed to encourage the nanospheres to form. As luck would have it, Kiss had worked with fluorescence spectroscopy while an undergraduate student, though this project was his first time studying an organic structure with the technique.

“Andrew performed most of the steady state fluorescence spectroscopy,” Bromley said. “He set up important technical aspects of this article; he really helped guide its direction.”

As exciting as it is to have a published article under his belt, Kiss also recognizes how his research experience will affect his dental education and career.

“I feel like there are different types of learning, and at USC we get to experience most of them,” he said. “There is the classroom, PBL small group learning, SIM lab learning, and the clinic. I feel like research is another dimension of learning.”

As co-president of the School’s Student Research Group, Kiss highly encourages other students to go into research.

“It’s hard to understand and appreciate what research really is until you’ve been involved with it,” he said.

Mitch Thompson DDS ’15, a fellow CCMB student investigator whose summer 2011 research will also hopefully be published one day, said students’ exposure to research is important, whether they plan to pursue research careers, want to teach others, or simply be more scientific-minded as they serve their patients.

“My research experience might lead me to a career in academic dentistry or even help me to become a better clinician through the sharpening of my analytical skills and a better understanding of fundamental dental science,” he said. “It is still too early to tell where my experience might lead me, but I advise other students to get involved and give things like research a try. Make the most out of your experience here at USC!”

Dozens of student researchers have performed investigations at the CCMB over the years, and Bromley and Oldak have seen firsthand the positive impact that research involvement has on students. Oldak said that many students, empowered by taking part in research, have gone on to be strong student leaders, present findings at professional meetings, and more.

“It’s really important for us to be good role models and invest in these students,” Oldak said. “Our laboratories are always open to them.”