Students engaged in research | August Dean's message

Student engages in research in a lab, supervised by Julie Olson, PhD

One of the most meaningful experiences I had while getting my PhD was working with dental students, who were instrumental in allowing me to analyze a large dataset. One of them went on to complete a Masters in Public Health and work at the National Institutes of Health. They are now a tenure track faculty at the University of Maryland.

Exposing students to research produces long-lasting value, whether it creates a research faculty, a private practitioner with a deeper understanding of science or a hygienist leading community engaged research.

One pathway through which our school introduces and engages students in research is through the Student Summer Research Program. This program has an outstanding legacy. Led for many years by Joel Rudney, PhD, MS, MA, it is currently led by Julie Olson, PhD, one of the school’s distinguished researchers. Summer research students spend approximately 8-9 weeks working with faculty research mentors, learning to design and perform research, presenting their research to peers, drafting a capstone paper and presenting at school and national meetings.

This year, nine students are working on various projects, including the role of adhesins in biofilm formation, original bacteria colonizers in biofilms, causes of restoration failures, social determinants of health in dental patients, immune response to oral squamous cell carcinoma and osteoclast differentiation. My kudos to this year’s student researchers and their mentors.

Group shot of student summer researchers
Student Summer Research participants

Another emerging pathway for students interested in research is the rebirth of the Minnesota Student Research Group (MSRG). This local chapter is linked to a national Student Research Group, a component of the American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research. The MSRG is led by Ravi Maisuria (President), Kristina Astleford-Hopper (Vice President), Jenna VanDenAvond (Secretary), Nicholas Fischer (Treasurer), and Sofia Park (Public Relations Coordinator). The faculty advisor is Sheila Riggs, DDS, DMSc. This group has re-emerged with a mission to collaboratively engage DDS, PhD, MS, DT, DHT, faculty, and staff to promote the advancement of scientific research. Watch for more information and events from this group during this academic year.

Many of these activities would not be possible if it were not for the committed financial support of our alumni and friends. In fiscal year 2022, 11 individuals donated to the Student Summer Research Program, contributing $7,400. Many of these donors are longtime supporters of our program, and some had student research experiences when in school. As we seek to grow our research, this financial support is critical. On behalf of the school and our student researchers, I want to thank you for your contributions.