Summer Research Fellowship Program

The summer fellowship program provides University of Minnesota School of Dentistry students with the opportunity to do research under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

The mentors most often will be School of Dentistry faculty, or post-doctoral fellows in the Minnesota Craniofacial Research Training Program (MinnCResT). However, faculty from other Academic Health Center schools may occasionally participate.

The summer fellowship program provides a great opportunity for qualified students to contribute to the progress of dental and craniofacial research.

Program Director: Dr. Julie Olson

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible?

Only students who are matriculating or currently enrolled in the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry are eligible for this program. Matriculating students are eligible for 8-10 research scholarships. Students who are offered these "pre-D1" research scholarships will carry out their research during the summer before they begin their first year of dental school at the University of Minnesota.

An additional 8-10 fellowships (depending on funding) will be available for second-year dental students. An application form will be distributed to the rising second year class in their spring semester. New applications are encouraged, but second year students who were awarded summer fellowships the previous year also have the option of applying for a second summer fellowship.

Who should apply?

This program is directed towards students who already know they really enjoy doing research, and also towards those who would like to find out if they would enjoy research. Those who are considering applying to a dental specialty program (such as orthodontics, endodontics, periodontology, pediatric dentistry, etc.) also may find it helpful to acquire some prior experience in dental research. A primary goal of the summer research program is to give our students the opportunity to explore a career in academic dentistry. The future of dental education depends upon our ability to recruit the next generation of bright young energetic faculty.

What is the time commitment?

Pre-first year students will be expected to do full-time research for 10 weeks during the summer prior to the start of the fall semester with the earliest possible start date in May. Start and end dates and vacation time also can be negotiated with mentors, to allow for events such as family vacations, etc. However, work must be completed by the beginning of first-year orientation, usually in mid-August.

Current dental students entering their second year will conduct their research in July and August. It generally is possible to negotiate vacation time with mentors, in exchange for work in the evening and on weekends. Current students choosing to continue existing research into their third or fourth years may work year-round without a stipend, as their clinic schedules permit.

Is there a stipend?

That currently depends on a number of circumstances. Pre-first year students who are chosen for Research Scholarships will receive a stipend of $4,000, in increments of $2,000 upon start, and $2,000 at the end of June (please note that the stipend will be considered taxable income).  Current students who are accepted to the program also will receive a stipend of $4,000, which will be deposited into their student accounts for Summer semester 2019. Money deposited in student accounts is not taxable, but its use is restricted to educational expenses, such as tuition, fees, textbooks, etc. It is important for current students to note that the University of Minnesota considers their stipend to be financial aid. Thus, it will count towards the total amount of financial aid that they are eligible to receive during any given University academic year (which starts in September). The advantage of the stipend to current students is that it reduces the amount that you have to borrow. You don’t have to pay it back, and you don’t have to pay interest.

Can I volunteer to do research without a stipend?

Because there is currently less funding available for stipends, we will consider applications from current students who are willing to participate in the Summer Research Program without a stipend. Volunteers must meet all of the eligibility criteria for the program (see above), and must go through the same evaluation process. In order to maintain the integrity of the program, volunteers will be expected to meet the same obligations as all other summer fellows, and will be eligible for all of the same perks (see below). The ultimate constraint on the number of volunteers accepted will be the number of mentors available.

Where does the money come from?

Funding for individual fellowships is provided through a variety of sources in the School of Dentistry, including scholarship funds, the Dean’s office, and mentors’ research funds. The number of fellowships that can be awarded is contingent upon funding, and may vary from year to year.

What are the obligations?

In addition to the research itself, summer fellows will be expected to participate in a series of weekly seminars during the summer. Every fellow is required to have annual training on research safety and research ethics. When possible, this will be done as part of the seminar series.

We will pretty much leave you alone during the Fall Semester after you complete your research. However, in Spring semester you are expected to write about and present your research. Summer Fellows will prepare a 300 word abstract of their research, due at the beginning of February, and expand it into a ten page research report, due at the end of Spring Semester. They also represent the School of Dentistry in March by presenting posters about their work at the School of Dentistry’s Dental Research Updates (A.K.A. Dean’s Day).

Are there any perks?

The fellowships provide opportunities for travel. In recent years, the School has been able to send students to the International Association for Dental Research meeting (when it is in North America) or else to the American Association of Dental Research meeting. (13 summer fellows have submitted abstracts for the IADR meeting in 2019). This is contingent on funding, and the number of people we can send may vary from year to year (funding for international travel is not available). Authors of the top seven research reports receive travel prizes including trips to the IADR meeting, the Hinman Student Research conference in Memphis, or a meeting of their choice.

How are applications reviewed?

Due to the limited number of fellowships available, the application process is highly competitive. Pre-D1 applicants who are called for an interview are offered the opportunity to submit an application form for a Summer Research Scholarship, due no later than the date of their interview. The application forms are reviewed by members of the DDS Admissions Committee. Summer Research scholarships then are offered to selected students when the first round of acceptance letters are mailed in December. Application forms submitted by current students in Spring semester are screened by a committee of School of Dentistry researchers. In either case, the selection of Fellows is the result of a “holistic” process. Criteria that are considered include previous research experience, expressed interest and enthusiasm, and the student’s level of academic achievement. Decisions are based on all of those factors combined.

How are mentors selected?

In Spring semester, prospective mentors are asked to submit student research projects. The range of topics encompassed by those projects reflects the great diversity of research carried out within the field of dental and craniofacial research. These may include (but are not limited to) microbiology, immunology, virology, neuroscience, bone biology, cancer, growth and development, muscle biology, dental materials, oral epidemiology, and research in clinical dentistry. The summer research committee matches selected Fellows with mentors. This is based on common interests and experience. Please note that the mentors and topics do change from year to year, so it may not always be possible to give a student their first choice for a mentor or research area.

List of previous summer research projects from 2005-2017

Are there opportunities for Minnesota pre-dental students to do dental research?

The first priority of the Summer Research Fellowship program is to find mentors for our accepted and current dental students who are interested in doing research. Undergraduates can apply for a cross-collegiate UROP slot, but that would have to be arranged though the University of Minnesota UROP office. The first step in doing that would be to identify a School of Dentistry faculty member who is willing to serve as your UROP mentor, and that is entirely up to you. If you can find a UROP mentor in the School of Dentistry, your next step would be to contact the UROP office.

How can pre-dental students put themselves on the path to a summer fellowship?

Previous research experience (plus a strong letter from your research mentor in your AADSAS application) is certainly a plus in terms of qualifying for the Summer Research Program. However, there is no additional advantage to having done research with a School of Dentistry faculty member. Similar considerations apply to the admissions process for the school itself. The Admissions Committee is interested in applicants who have done quality research, in any field of science.

Are there other research opportunities for dental students?

A variety of research fellowships are available at the local, national, and international levels. Links to those programs are provided below:

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of Minnesota offers the Summer Advanced Research Program for students from Academic Health Center schools. Thee focus of this program is clinical and/or translational research. It should be noted that these fellowships require that a project already be defined in advance with a faculty mentor who has funding from NIH.

The American Association for Dental Research offers AADR Student Research Fellowships to selected students from United States Dental Schools. It should be noted that these fellowships require that a project already be defined in advance with a faculty mentor The total award is $2,100 for research plus travel to the AADR meeting, and the student has up to two years to complete the project. Click on the link for application information

The NIDCR Summer Dental Student Award provides selected dental students with the opportunity to work during the summer at the intramural laboratories of the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research in Bethesda, Maryland. Three of our students have participated in this program to date, and our goal is to send one or two every summer. Click on the link for application information, and please notify Dr. Olson if you decide to apply.

D3 or D4 students with a serious interest in an academic career can apply for a one-year research fellowship at NIH through the Medical Research Scholars Program. One of our students was part of the 2012-13 inaugural class for this program. If you are interested in this program, contact Dr. Olson for more information.