Spring Synergy Winners

Natasha Patel
Natasha Patel, SCADA Winner
Dr. Addison and Dr. Bingham
Endodontics residents Dr. Geena Valdes Addison and Dr. Kristen Bingham.

The UF College of Dentistry notched a record turnout for its annual celebration of research – Spring Synergy – on Friday, March 29 at the HPNP Auditorium, co-sponsored by UF Continuing Dental Education, UFCD’s Office of Research and the UF chapter of the American Student Dental Association, or ASDA. A total of 69 students, faculty and staff presented posters at Spring Synergy and nine students, ranging from pre-dental/undergraduate students to Ph.D./postdoctoral students, earned first and second-place honors in the poster presentation competition, including first-year Natasha Patel, who was the college’s SCADA – Student Competition for Advancing Dental Research and its Application – winner.

Patel’s SCADA win designates her as the College of Dentistry’s representation in the 2025 SCADA competition at the 2025 IADR/AADOCR Annual Meeting in New York City, including pre-paid conference registration, air travel and hotel accommodations.

Anh Hao Dang
Anh Hao Dang, second place
Edison Tran
Edison Tran, pre-dental winner, alongside mentor Dr. Jorge Frias-Lopez
Dr. Huang alongside Dr. Divakar Karanth, Dr. Valeria Gordan and Dr. Alex Delgado
l to r: Dr. Divakar Karanth, Dr. Valeria Gordan, Dr. Greg Huang and Dr. Alex Delgado

Congratulations are in order for undergraduate pre-dental students Edison Tran and Anh Hao Dang, who were first and second in the pre-dental category, respectively. Alec Simonson and Mark Fischer – both DMD Class of 2025 – finished first and second in the DMD poster competition, while Geena Valdes Addison, D.M.D., and Kristen Bingham, D.M.D., represented the endodontics residency program with first and second-place honors in the master’s/resident category. DMD/Ph.D. combined-degree candidates Heba El-Ahmad (first) and Callahan Katrak (second) rounded out the top two posters in the Ph.D./postdoctoral competition. Find each winner’s project title, as well as faculty research mentors, detailed below.

Thank you to our 21 faculty members who served as judges for the day’s poster competition.

A special shout out to our faculty and staff from the college who showcased their projects to the college at Spring Synergy: faculty Daesong Jang, Ph.D., from oral medicine, Pedro Valdes Hernandez, Ph.D., from community dentistry and behavioral science, and staff members Irene Saengpet and Rachel Fletcher from oral biology, as well as Sandhya Rani Nadakunditi from periodontology.

It was an honor to have Gator Dentist Greg J. Huang, DMD Class of 1987, back home in Gainesville from his post at the University of Washington as our Robert L. Kaplan Scholar to provide two engaging research keynote presentations: Aligners: Past, Present and Future; and Clinical Research – Greg’s Greatest Hits. After his graduation from UFCD in 1987, Huang went on to specialize in orthodontics, earning a certificate and master’s degree in orthodontics from the University of Washington, while also earning his MPH in epidemiology from UW. He’s been an academician since 1999 and is the Kokich-Shapiro Endowed Professor, chair of orthodontics and associate dean for faculty at the UW School of Dentistry. A proponent of evidence-based orthodontics, Huang is a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, is heavily involved in clinical research and is co-editing two orthodontics text books.

The Robert L. Kaplan Scholar at Spring Synergy is annually supported by the Robert L. Kaplan Visiting Professorship Fund, which honors Dr. Kaplan, past president of the American Academy of Restorative Dentistry who was the chairman of the Dental Advisory Committee that was instrumental in making the case for a dental school in the state of Florida and, thus, playing a critical role in establishing UFCD.

Lastly, thank you to our local ASDA chapter for sponsoring and organizing the vendor fair portion of Spring Synergy in the Biomedical Sciences Building. We appreciate all those vendors who took the time to visit UF to showcase the latest and greatest equipment, swag and gear for our dental profession and those graduating Gator Dentists going into clinical practice.

2024 Spring Synergy Poster Winners

SCADA WINNER: Natasha Patel | Mentor: Dr. Shannon Wallet | Project: Oral Keratinocyte Extracellular Vesicles Immunomodulate Periodontal Ligament Fibroblasts


  • First Place: Edison Tran | Mentor: Dr. Jorge Frias-Lopez | Project: CRISPR-Cas System Can Modulate PGN_1547: A New Hypothetical Virulence Factor in Porphyromonas Gingivalis ATCC 33277
  • Second Place: Anh Hao Dang | Mentor: Dr. Jia Chang | Project: Reposition of FDA-approved Antidepressant, 2-PCPA, to Treat Periodontitis
Mark Fischer
Dean Isabel Garcia and Mark Fischer


  • First Place: Alec Simonson | Mentor: Dr. Robert Caudle | Project: Characterization of Warm Temperature Effects on TRPM8 Knockout Mice
  • Second Place: Mark Fischer | Mentor: Dr. Sarah Abu Arqub | Project: Artificial Intelligence for Prediction of Location and Severity of Impacted Teeth


  • First Place: Dr. Geena Valdes Addison | Mentor: Dr. Roberta Pileggi & Dr. Jacqueline Abranches | Project: Quantitative Analysis of Biofilm Removal Following Irrigation with EndoActivator and GentleWave Systems: Microbiological Study
  • Second Place: Dr. Kristen Bingham | Mentor: Dr. Roberta Pileggi & Dr. Anita Gohel | Project: The Incidence of Cemento-Osseous Dysplasia and Its Contemporary Correlations


  • First Place: Heba El-Ahmad | Mentor: Dr. Shannon Wallet | Project: Novel Nitric Oxide-Releasing Pluronic F-127 Organogel Inhibits Progression of Melanoma
  • Second Place: Callahan Katrak | Mentor: Dr. Jaqueline Abranches | Project: Partners in Grime: Exploring the Synergism Between Candida Albicans and Streptococcus Mutans in Oxidative Stress Tolerance
Heba El-Ahmad
Callahan Katrak