Some students can’t wait to begin full immersion in dental school and, fortunately, there’s a University of Florida College of Dentistry program that’s perfect for them. This year, seven incoming freshmen dental students are participating in the college’s 10-week Summer Research Program that started on May 19.
Participating this year are Andy Alvarez, Taylor Capasso, Stefhany Duque, Eric Faby, Amanda Francis, Kelli Rike and Dusty Rose.
The program began in 1995 to provide incoming freshmen dental students who have an interest in research the opportunity to work on a structured research project. Since its inception, the program has been well received by both student and faculty participants and some students have continued their research activities throughout their dental education. The students also receive three hours of elective credit in the fall semester to recognize their research efforts.
Nora Abdel-rahim, a member of the D.M.D. Class of 2016, participated in the Summer Learning Program as an incoming freshman in 2012 and says it was very beneficial.
“I got to experience research in the dental field for the first time and understand how the clinical side of dentistry is greatly influenced by research. I also met faculty over the summer and interacted with my future classmates,” she said. “Because of the summer research program, I honestly felt more-well rounded as a student dentist and hope to do more with dental research.”
The research projects, which are overseen by faculty mentors, cover a variety of oral health issues and could have real implications in oral health knowledge and treatment. Alvarez is working on a project to see if dental plaque that doesn’t have caries produces more ammonia, creating a more basic oral cavity that counteracts the acidity that causes cavities. They are also finding out if changes in dentition, from primary to permanent teeth, has any effect on ammonium production.
Duque is looking at attachment of porphymonas gingivalis (one of the main causes of periodontitis) to epithelial cells with and without arginine. They may also look at how it invades epithelial cells and their persistence.
In addition to the research activities, the students’ schedule includes a number of presentations and discussions about a variety of topics relating to research, the health science center, ethics and privacy compliance.
“It’s really an intense and well-rounded overview of the dental school and the medical science environment, as well as a rewarding experience in oral health research,” said Kathleen Galloway, assistant director in the college’s Office of Research.
At the end of the program, the students give oral research presentations. This year, oral presentations are scheduled for July 25 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in D3-3; everyone is welcome to attend. The students also submit their projects for consideration to the American Association of Dental Researchers for a competition during their annual meeting.
For more information about the program, visit this webpage.
Photo from left to right: Stefhany Duque, Taylor Capasso, Dusty Rose, Kelli Rike, Andy Alvarez, Amanda Francis and Eric Faby.