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One for the research books

D1 Dental Scholars

From left to right: D1 Dental Scholars
Keith Anderson; Niekia Franklin;
Jiyoung Jung; and Surpreet Arora.

Photos by Steven Doll

Here’s a look at how the 2012 Dental Scholars plan to advance their dental school education while classes aren’t in session

Every year since 2009, a handful of D1s have been selected as Dental Scholars. As part of the program, made possible by the Oral Health Research Education Grant R25, the students are given the opportunity for hands-on dental research and teaching experience. It’s a coveted slot; the entire D1 class can apply, and only four students at most are selected.

This year’s Dental Scholars include D1s Surpreet Arora, Keith Anderson, Niekia Franklin and Jiyoung Jung. They’ve just returned from spring break, but already they have their summer schedules set. Each of them will spend two months assisting a faculty member with an ongoing clinical research project.

It’s just one of many activities geared toward giving the scholars a taste for life as a dental educator or researcher.

While students aren’t required to become dental educators to participate in the program, Dr. Robert Spears, associate professor in biomedical sciences and the program’s director, says the hope is that the students may eventually teach full time or, if they choose to enter private practice, teach on a part-time basis.

“This is really geared toward trying to find the next generation of clinical educators,” says Spears. “What we’re trying to do is give them some formal training in educational theory and practical application.”


Dental Scholars Program by the Year

D1 Year: Scholars will attend topic-appropriate research presentations, participate in the Predoctoral Student Research Program during the summer and work with a faculty mentor.

D2 Year: Scholars participate in the Predoctoral Student Research Program and continue to work with their faculty mentors in order to create a presentation, which will be given at Dental Scholars Day and at a meeting of the American Association for Dental Research. Scholars also attend a patient-oriented research workshop at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

D3 Year: Scholars complete two research-related electives. They may either continue with their clinical research or start a new project related to education and teaching. Summer workshops focusing on education and clinical research also are available.

D4 Year: Scholars will complete a teaching skills course and internship. Students with an education-related research project will present their findings on Dental Scholars Day and to the American Dental Education Association. Those with clinical research projects will present at an AADR meeting.

What D1 Surpreet Arora has planned for the summer: I will be studying the mechanisms involved in osseointegration of titanium implants covered in bioactive glass, in Dr. Venu Varanasi's laboratory.

What interests him about this research: I have always been interested in how we respond to the chemical world around us. It would be fascinating to understand the roles of inorganic ions of elements like silicon, calcium, magnesium, sodium, etc., released by this glass coating in mineralized tissue formation following an implant placement, and their possible roles in expression of Type 1 Collagen and similar mediators of osteogenesis.

What D1 Keith Anderson has planned for the summer: I'll be working with Dr. Phillip Campbell, — Robert E. Gaylord Endowed Chair
of the orthodontics department — on some clinical research. Some of the research includes comparing the amount of decalcification caused by bonded surface brackets versus older, banded brackets.

What interests him about this research: I am just eager to be a part of research that can be applied clinically. By comparing effects of different braces, we'll be able to help orthodontists make more informed decisions about which treatments to use.

What D1 Niekia Franklin has planned for the summer: I will be working with Dr. Amal Noureldin, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences. The research will be in the preventive dentistry field; testing and challenging a novel, breakthrough material that helps stop caries progression in incipient enamel lesions.

What interests her about this research: We are in the era of minimal intervention dentistry. This will help to control aggressive premature cutting in teeth structure in both children and adults. I feel like this research will help to progress the treatment of patients in the clinic while helping me to gain a diverse range of experiences in the areas of public health, dental education and dental advocacy.

What D1 Jiyoung Jung has planned for the summer: I will join Dr. Chunlin Qin’s research group as a summer assistant to investigate the mechanism of FAM20C modulating tooth root development by means of multipronged approaches including histology and molecular biological methods. FAM20C is a newly discovered molecule playing critical roles in osteogenesis and odontogenesis.

What interests her about this research: I have never been involved in research before. Throughout the semester, several professors presented their ongoing research, which fascinated me. I like Dr. Qin’s project because it is the most related to dentition.


Dental Scholars
From left to right: Arora; Dr. Robert Spears, associate professor in biomedical sciences and Dental Scholars director; Greg Knutsen, D3; Anderson; Jung; Franklin; Ida Khobahy, D3; Meredith Davis, D2; Whitney Rochelle, D2; Richland Mosley, D3; Naveen Karim, D2; and Dr. Robert Hinton, Regents Professor in biomedical sciences.