U-M Dental School faculty member joins Biointerfaces Institute at NCRC

NCRC at the Crossroads of Interdisciplinary Research
U-M Dental School faculty member joins Biointerfaces Institute at NCRC

In a recent interview, Paul H. Krebsbach, DDS, PhD, Biologic & Materials Sciences Professor and Chair, U-M School of Dentistry, shares how the unique features of NCRC will impact the nature of his research

Please tell us about your move to NCRC and your participation in the Biointerfaces Institute.
I was on the original committee with Professor Jeorg Lahann to come up with the concepts for the Biointerfaces Institute, so I’ve been involved with the planning efforts since the early stages. It is exciting for me as a biologist to be surrounded by a range of researchers at NCRC - some with similar interests but more interestingly, others with very different interests. To me the beauty of discovery is putting people with seemingly unrelated interests together to enhance the process of discovery. This is the process that interests me most and now it’s a reality. So far the experience has been very good!

Do you already work with some of the faculty members located at NCRC?  
I have worked with a few of them in the past, but since moving here I have had new interactions. For example, I have already had discussions with Professors Shu Takayama and Jeorg Lahann in substantial ways. I am confident that being at NCRC and having our labs next to each other’s will only accelerate the collaborations. In the past their labs were in North Campus and mine in Central Campus, making interactions more difficult. I see great benefits from this co-location. Having our PhD students and post-docs working elbow to elbow with those from other labs will greatly enhance the research potential.

Have you done interdisciplinary research in the past?
Yes, certainly. In fact, my career at Michigan is built on the idea of inter-disciplinary research. I have been engaged in interactive science for the last 15 years. We have at least three biomedical engineering faculty members in our department in the Dental School, so I am used to an inter-disciplinary research culture. I have had a long history of interactions between the physical sciences and the life sciences, and bringing the two together. I anticipate building on this in significant ways at NCRC.

What do you see as the unique features of NCRC?
Well, it’s certainly a very pleasant environment! After 15 years on Central Campus, the change in the environment - art, trees and scenery are all very refreshing, although I do like being in the Dental School as well.

In terms of research, the laboratories are very well-structured. I like the open anatomy and layout of the labs and the common areas, all of which make it easy to communicate and collaborate with people. The Dental School doesn’t have similar labs although some of the newer buildings on campus, such as the BSRB and the LSI do. The open structure of the labs here is new to me but I look forward to getting used to it quickly. I do think this structure makes a lot of sense for inter-disciplinary scientific research.
And finally, I am very interested in and hopeful of making new connections at NCRC. Let me give you an example.  As I mentioned, we were already working with engineers at the Dental School, but NCRC makes more possible. Within just two weeks of our moving here, two of my post-docs came to me with a proposal to work with cancer stem cell researchers who are working down the hall from us. The post-docs were invited to their lab meeting to talk about their work and interactions have begun. Clearly, being at NCRC has facilitated the exploration of collaborations that we may not even have thought of three months ago. I think such connections will continue to evolve at a fast pace at NCRC. I am anticipating a wealth of opportunities.

NCRC gives me a new outlook and freshness to my science without having to leave this university. I don’t have to leave my old collaborators – I can now make new ones.