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2022 Summer Research Program sees ‘positive’ results

Published: August 12, 2022 by Kyle Rogers

Student participants during orientation for UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry’s 2022 Summer Research Program.
Student participants during orientation for UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry’s 2022 Summer Research Program.
Members of UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry’s 2022 Summer Research Program.
Members of UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry’s 2022 Summer Research Program. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

Establish facts and reach new conclusions, that is what 48 students and their 32 mentors set out to accomplish during UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry’s 2022 Summer Research Program.

The 2022 cohort was comprised of 34 returning dental students, 10 incoming dental students, and four students from SODSURP, the School of Dentistry’s summer undergraduate research program in partnership with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. Participating students received $1,500 stipends.

“I would like to thank all of the faculty who served as mentors and students who participated in the Summer Research Program,” said Dharini van der Hoeven, MSc, PhD, associate professor and student research coordinator. “This program thrives because of their enthusiasm and support.” 

The annual program provides an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience with research while working alongside faculty mentors on projects in basic science, clinical, and educational categories. Examples of research projects included:

  • Basic Science: Engineering salivary avatars for patients with xerostomia, understanding hots-pathogen interactions in oral diseases, and elucidating the mechanisms of craniofacial development
  • Clinical: Studying attitudes of general dentists towards teledentistry, using computer vision algorithms for accurate diagnosis of carious lesions, and evaluation of optical properties of single-shade resin composites
  • Educational: Optimizing methods of teaching empathy to students

When surveyed about their experience, student participants praised the program for the opportunities it provided to explore research topics in the field of dentistry.

One incoming student said, “I decided to participate in the Summer Research Program, because I wanted the opportunity to integrate myself within dental research. I found the list of mentors and their corresponding projects to be stimulating and innovative. Many of them were making use of advancements in technology, which interested me a lot.”

Faculty mentors noted the value in completing research projects with students.

One faculty mentor said, “I enjoy providing students with research experience and helping them in their professional development. I could see a lot of growth in my mentees. I got to work with bright minds, learn together, and further our research.”

The 2022 Summer Research Program ran May 16 to Aug. 12 for returning students and June 1 to July 29 for incoming and SODSURP students.

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