ISSUE
               
Celebrating Our Community
Robert Range, '12, DDS Program: A Forest-for-the-Trees Kind of Guy
- Stephanie Susnjara


Robert Range, DDS '12




In the summer of 2008, when Bob Range, DDS '12, arrived on the NYUCD campus, he had never done any research, never even touched a microscope. He began his academic career early, participating in an eight-week summer research program. Accepted by Kathleen Kinnally, PhD, professor of basic science and craniofacial biology, Bob began studying mitochondrial morphology in her lab.

"It was a great opportunity for me to do research, something I had always been interested in trying but hadn't been able to do previously, as well as get acclimated to life in Manhattan," said Bob.

Bob quickly acclimated to lab life as well as city life. "He came in with a thirst for investigating things," said Dr. Kinnally. "He's also computer savvy, an important asset for the type of research that I do."

"The main focus of our research," said Bob, "has been the biochemical cascade of apoptosis. Specifically, we were looking at two proteins called BAX and BAK, which are known to be pro-apoptotic proteins that form an oligomer channel on the mitochondria membrane during apoptosis. We discovered a relationship in which the channel forms and then the mitochondria start to fragment, which has led to further studies to try to understand the role these proteins play."

The study of mitochondria is a hot topic these days. "If we can better understand apoptosis, we can potentially control it in the grand scheme, which has all sorts of implications, including intervening in cancer."

In the lab Bob has worked closely with associate research scientist Dr. Pablo Peixoto. "Bob struck me as a brilliant guy and very mature. He is able to listen and then come back the next day with a very broad, panoramic view of what we are trying to accomplish," said Dr. Peixoto.

To get an idea of the level of excellence Bob has achieved in his research work at NYUCD, one need only glance at his many awards:

  • Recipient of the Michael C. Alfano Excellence in Research Award, OKU 81st Annual Convocation and Induction Dinner, May 2010
  • Recipient of the Gordon Reiss Memorial Fund Research Award, OKU 81st Annual Convocation and Induction Dinner, May 2010
  • Recipient of the OKU Research Award, NYU College of Dentistry Annual Student Research Competition, April 2010
  • Recipient of the Dean's Research Award, NYU College of Dentistry Annual Student Research Competition, April 2010
  • Recipient of the AADR Research Fellowship Award (22 awarded nationally), AADR Annual Meeting, Washington DC, March 2010
  • Recipient of the Most Outstanding Research Presentation, Hinman Regional Student Research Symposium, Memphis TN, October 2009
  • Recipient of the Dean's Research Award, NYU College of Dentistry Annual Student Research Competition, April 2009

During his third year in dental school, Bob had to turn his attention more toward clinical studies, but was able to return to research late in the year, partly to fulfill his obligation to the AADR fellowship award. These research results will be presented at the 2012 AADR meeting in Tampa, Florida.

Prior to NYUCD, Bob, 35, lived in New Orleans, where he had a career in computer networks, setting up systems in university and hospital settings. "Dentistry and computers may seem far apart, but in many ways they're not. I was working with my hands all day. I'm meticulous, and I like repetition. I realized I wanted to transition into a health-care field and help people." All of this combined to help Bob select dentistry.

Bob chose NYUCD because he wanted to learn about global health and also gain clinical experience that included exposure to a broad-based population. "Research was a bonus, something that I realized I just really enjoyed.

After his studies are completed, Bob plans to go into clinical practice and hopes to incorporate both research and teaching into his career. "What's nice about private practice is that you can do clinically applied research. You can see how your restoration work holds up over five, 10 years, which puts you in a really good position to analyze biomaterials."

In addition to all of his research, didactic, and clinical work, Bob was also able to fit in participation in NYUCD's initial two-week global outreach to Grenada. "It was my dream to do an outreach, and this was a phenomenal experience." Ideally, Bob would like to practice 10 months out of the year and spend two months visiting an underserved country to provide care.

"In pursuing clinical work, he'll hopefully be able to involve himself in something like the PEARL practice-based research network," said Dr. Kinnally. "He's someone who thinks critically and evaluates all of his options, and I am sure he will apply this behavior while working with patients." She then added, "He's a forest guy, not a tree guy."

STEPHANIE SUSNJARA