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Kim Orth, Ph.D.

  • Professor, Molecular Biology
  • W.W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research
  • Earl A. Forsythe Chair in Biomedical Science
  • HHMI Investigator
  • NAS Member
“Never fear to ask, as the answer one day might be ‘Yes!’”

Contributions to STEMM

Dr. Orth is a scientific trailblazer who has made major contributions to understanding how virulence factors expressed by bacterial pathogens cause diseases, such as food poisoning and cancer. Using microbial genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, and bioinformatics, her group has uncovered many mechanisms that bacteria use to subvert host signaling pathways, including the discovery of novel protein modifications. “My laboratory discovers new signaling communication mechanisms in human cells. Errors in molecule signaling often lead to diseases such as cancer,” she said. Dr. Orth stresses the importance of employing a multidisciplinary approach to young researchers, describing it as “a significant part of my success with my studies on bacterial effectors.”

She also “recommends to all scientists-in-training to diversify and pick up molecular tools for future studies that they may never anticipate using, as Mother Nature is by far the cleverest chemist and biochemist on the planet.”

Overcoming Challenges

“As a girl growing up in the South, the expectation was that I would be a good wife and mother and be content with that,” Dr. Orth explained. “Although I was talented in math, my teacher thought it best that I be kept back as a tutor for those who had problems with numbers. Boys were thought to have talent in math and science and talented boys were advanced to higher level classes.” Dr. Orth discovered the ability to advocate for herself during her later school years when “I had the good fortune of being influenced by teachers that were running the speech and drama classes. They rigorously and creatively taught young students how to speak in public."

"In hindsight, to be able to clearly present a fluid and appealing seminar to a group of peers is an extremely valuable tool that every scientist needs to move forward and to be an effective mentor and colleague. I am forever in their debt.”

Advice to the Next Generation

Dr. Orth is excited to be recognized by the UT Southwestern Celebrating Breakthroughs Together Project, adding it to her long list of accolades. “Having grown up scientifically at UT Southwestern as a technician, student, postdoc, and faculty member, to be a part of the UT Southwestern Celebrating Breakthroughs Together Project is a great honor.”

Now, as an established scientist and educator, Dr. Orth uses her experience to advise the next generation of scientists.

“My advice to those interested in a STEMM career is: No matter what, take care of yourself. Eat properly, get sleep, and exercise. Graduate school, doing a postdoc, getting married, and having a career with or without kids are all stressful. But none of it can be done well if you do not take care of yourself.”

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