Park receives SCADA award for summer research

Sofia SooYoung Park headshot

A first-year dental student received recognition for her summer research at a recent dental research conference.

Sofia SooYoung Park, DDS ’25, won first place in the Student Competition for Advancing Dental Research Application (SCADA) Basic and Translational Science Research category at the American Association for Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research’s 2022 Annual Meeting.

Park began her time at the School of Dentistry in the summer of 2021 as part of the Student Summer Research Fellow Program, a funded experience where incoming students and students completing their first year of studies undertake a structured 10-week research program. Fellows attend weekly training seminars, with an opportunity to prepare a written report and poster presentation the following spring.

Park worked with Kim Mansky, PhD, professor and director of the Minnesota Craniofacial Research Training Program, becoming part of her lab for the summer. “I feel very lucky and grateful to have been matched with Dr. Mansky and my fantastic lab members,” she reflected. “I not only had the opportunity to participate in some exciting research, but got to form lasting friendships.”

Her research focused on determining whether there are differences between osteoclast precursors found in the mandible and those found in the femur. “With a better understanding of the impact of site-specific lineage in osteoclast formation and potential, we may have a better treatment option for osteopetrosis and other skeletal diseases that specifically affect the jaws,” she explained.

After Park completed her summer program, she submitted an abstract for the AADOCR conference and was selected to receive the SCADA award, enabling her to enter the SCADA competition at AADOCR. “I was completely caught off guard,” she reflected of the invitation, “but thought it would be an excellent experience.”

She joined the SCADA competition virtually, presenting her research to a panel of judges. “I was definitely nervous at first,” she recalled. “It can be a very intimidating setting, but I went in with a mindset that I would do my best and see it as a learning opportunity no matter what.”

That learning opportunity went even better than she could have expected. “I was shocked when I found out the result of the competition,” she said. “I had to re-read the email a few times!”

More than anything, Park is grateful for the experience of presenting, and for the research opportunity she was granted over the summer. She appreciates the mentorship she received from Rachel Phillips, DDS ’22 and current DDS/PhD candidate, and is excited to continue working with her on future projects. She plans to continue her passion for research, reinstating the Minnesota Student Research Group with fellow students to dig further into the questions that matter the most to her. And she sees each of these experiences as an opportunity to learn and grow.

“I learned so much through this experience, and it felt great to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I am so proud of the work that we did in the Mansky lab, and was so happy to share the news with everyone.”