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Students exposed to research careers at Colgate Dental Students' Conference on Research

November 01, 2016

By David Burger

Future of research: The 52nd annual Colgate Dental Students' Conference on Research brought together nearly 40 students to introduce them to careers in research in October at the ADA Foundation Volpe Research Center.
Gaithersburg, Md. — "Do not take a step, unless it will leave a footprint."

That was the takeaway of Kendra Clark, Ph.D., after attending the 52nd annual Colgate Dental Students' Conference on Research in October at the ADA Foundation Volpe Research Center. Dr. Clark, National Student Research Group president-elect, is a third-year dental student at the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry after getting her doctorate in basic medical sciences at the University of South Alabama.

Dr. Clark
Dr. Clark was among nearly 40 dental students who have made a similar impact in their field of study invited to the two-day conference to learn more about careers in oral health research.

The students heard from a number of distinguished speakers from academia, government, industry and practices, who gave them insight about how to begin a career in research, what opportunities in dental research are available and how practicing clinicians can still participate in research.

As well as taking part of poster presentations which highlighted the research projects they have been involved in, attendees also visited the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, a component of the National Institutes of Health.

"Not only was I able to network with some amazing people, but I was also able to acquire knowledge about the various careers I can pursue as a dental researcher," said Dr. Clark, whose research journey began as an undergraduate at the University of Southern Mississippi, investigating natural alternatives to nonsteroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs. Her current project is differentiating human adipose-derived stem cells to the endothelial lineage to create a form of blood supply, with the intent to ultimately engineer periodontal tissue for guided bone regeneration.

Another student attending the conference was Shelly Gareiss, a third-year dental student at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry. "Creation and innovation interest me," she said. "It's important to continue asking, 'What else can be done? How can we change to make it better in the future?' We are at a great time to get involved in dental research because we will soon be able to explore data that had previously been unusable."

Ms. Gareiss, in the U.S. Navy's Health Professions Scholarship Program, has conducted research in the summers after her first and second years of dental school. "Both projects were focused on biomaterials," she said. "The first tested a new method to measure surface roughness of enamel after brushing with various toothpastes. The second project was a novel combination of materials to achieve antimicrobial activity in a hemostatic agent. I plan to continue with my second project in successive studies."

All U.S. and Canadian dental school deans receive information on the conference from the ADA Foundation in late March or early April, including full requirements and nomination procedures. Selected student nominees should be first-time conference participants and have a demonstrated interest and ability in research. Except for a $600 fee paid by the university to defray a portion of the conference-related costs, the Foundation funds the student trips.

"Dental school is not an end to our education," Ms. Gareiss said. "It is another step in the life-long process of learning. While private practice is the most common path, it is just one of many."

For more information on the conference, go to and search for Colgate Dental Students' Conference on Research.