Faculty Profile: Shannon Wallet, Ph.D.

Wallet Family 2013 smallWShannon Wallet, Ph.D., graduated from North Carolina State University in 1995 with a bachelor’s in medical technology and went on to earned a degree in clinical laboratory science from Duke University. She earned her Ph.D. in oral biology from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 2005 and joined the college in 2006 as a tenure-accruing assistant professor in the Department of Periodontology. She was promoted to associate professor and was awarded tenure in July 2013. Her primary responsibility has been to develop a program of research with a focus on mucosal immunology, immune regulation and bone biology within the department of periodontology, and collaborating both within and beyond the college.

Her time is devoted primarily to research. She has published three book chapters as co-author and has another accepted as a senior author. She has published 35 peer-reviewed manuscripts, being the first author in three and senior author in another ten; six papers are currently under review. She has authored 35 abstracts being the first author in two, and senior author in another 17.

Below are her answers to The Dentistry Questionnaire, which is just a way for us to get to know our faculty a little better.

Where were you born?  Lumberton, N.C.

Where were you raised? Raleigh, N.C.

What’s your earliest childhood memory? Riding my tricycle inside the house where I was born. There was black and white linoleum on the kitchen floor and I would ride in circles around the kitchen table. Every time I rode by my mother, she would hand me a piece of an orange.

Why did you decide to enter your profession? Before I went back to graduate school I was a medical technologist in a clinical laboratory (blood bank) and I felt like I wasn’t being challenged every day. I really enjoyed college the first time, so I decided I’d try it again and go back to graduate school.  I had loved my immunology courses in undergrad so I pursued a degree in immunology and microbiology. I was accepted to an oral biology program (where I didn’t do a lick of oral biology research) and studied the immunology of diabetes. Here I fell into diabetes research because of my excellent mentor, Roland Tisch.  His commitment to his research and the disease process was contagious and still serves as the model for my career today.  When I was recruited to the UF College of Dentistry, I didn’t quite appreciate the direct and reciprocal correlation between diabetes and oral health.  But since working with oral health researchers and becoming one myself, it has strengthened by fascination with the immunological processes associated with diabetes.

How did you end up at the UF College of Dentistry?  I was recruited as part of the U24 mechanism by Dr. Ike Aukhil due to my expertise in diabetes research.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?  My life right now, to be honest; a great family, a full-filling career and great friends.

What is your greatest fear?  Not being funded to do my research…seriously. Too many people depend on me for their livelihood, career development and happiness.  That’s the pressure that keeps me going through the tough times.

Which living person do you most admire?  My husband.

Who do you consider your professional mentors? Roland Tisch (UNC-CH), Clayton Mathews (COM) and Laurence Morel (COM).

Tell us about your research:  My research program is dedicated to deciphering mechanisms underlying exaggerated inflammatory responses that contribute to initiation and/or progression of type 1 diabetes (T1D), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and periodontal disease (PD). Here a major goal is to better understand aberrant innate immune responses of non-traditional immune cells (epithelial cells, stromal cells and bone/cartilage destroying cells — osteoclasts) under conditions of inflammation and autoimmunity.

What do you like best about yourself?  I consider myself a positive person. I like to look on the good side of things and not get too negative about things I can and can’t control.

When and where were you happiest?  At a music venue listening to local new talent.

If you could choose any talent, what would it be?  Anything in music.

Who are your heroes in real life?  My husband.

What is your favorite thing about your career?  Getting to do what I love every day. I can’t imagine what else I would do for a living.

What is your least favorite thing about your career?  The requirement to constantly be rating yourself and or being measured against some arbitrary bar.

What are you most proud of having achieved in your life (so far)?  Raising well-mannered kind hearted children (two), who are happy and healthy.