Member scientist, VCU Philips Institute of Oral and Craniofacial Molecular Biology
Todd Kitten, Ph.D., an associate professor of oral and craniofacial molecular biology
at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, discovered his passion
for research while an undergraduate at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas.
“I thought I would like research even in high school and college,” said
Kitten, a member scientist of the VCU Philips Institute of Oral and Craniofacial Molecular Biology
“It wasn’t until I did an undergraduate summer research fellowship project
the summer after my junior year that I knew for sure that this was what I wanted
Kitten, who also has a faculty appointment with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology within the VCU School of Medicine , joined VCU’s faculty in
1996. Currently a co-investigator on three different federally funded research projects,
Kitten said his primary research focuses on infective endocarditis, a disease caused
by bacteria that live in the mouth.
“It’s a very serious infection of the heart,” he said. “It’s
very rare, but the mortality rate is 20 to 30 percent. We’re looking
right now at ways to prevent this disease.”
The work clearly energizes and inspires Kitten.
“Every day, I can think of some new idea and all I have to do is convince
somebody that it’s important and I can go test that,” he said. “Even
though people think of research as being repetitive — and, yes, when you do
an experiment, you need to do it the same way every time you do it — thinking
about experiments and designing an experiment to be elegant is just very exciting.
“And then when you have your best plans and you do your experiment and it
tells you something you didn’t expect, to try to understand what that means,
that’s really where the learning happens.”
Listen to Dr. Kitten talk about research opportunities at the VCU School of Dentistry.