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Published by PDM Vernon Brightman Research Society, 2018-12-23 01:38:07

VBRS Fall 2018 Newsletter

We hope you enjoy reading about the research opportunities at Penn Dental Medicine, spotlights on students and faculty, and VBRS events.




How to get started in research

Page 6

Research Programs An Interview with the Dean VBRS Events

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Photo credit: PennToday


On the Cover... About Us

Our cover features dental pulp The Vernon Brightman Research Society (VBRS),
regenerated from stem cells named in honor of Vernon J. Brightman, former Penn
extracted from exfoliated Dental Medicine faculty member and strong supporter
deciduous teeth! New results of of student research, is the primary student research
a clinical trial, jointly led by organization at Penn Dental. Since its inception,
Songtao Shi of the University of VBRS has helped numerous students find their niche
Pennsylvania and Yan Jin, Kun in research at the School as it aims to promote interest,
Xuan, and Bei Li of the Fourth participation, and appreciation of the basic and clinical
Military Medicine University in oral health research that keep dentistry a science and
Xi’an, China, suggest that stem research-based profession. The society accomplishes
cells from patients' baby teeth to this aim by hosting a number of events throughout the
regenerate pulp can return year such as the Introduction to Research Seminar
sensation to damaged teeth. In Panel, Student Research Reception, and the Student
clinical trials, researchers have Research Day which includes  poster presentations
found that patients who received from students who participated in a variety of summer
these stem cells had more signs research projects.
than the control group of healthy
root development, thicker dentin,
and increased blood flow. You can
read more by scanning here!


TABLE OF Welcome Penn Dental Medicine,

CONTENTS Vernon Brightman Research Society (VBRS)
is pleased to present the 2018 Fall Edition of
6 Research 101: How to  our newsletter, PDM Explorer. This
Get Started in Research newsletter highlights the current research
being done by dental students and faculty at
Research Honors 8 Penn Dental Medicine. Also, this newsletter
Program serves as a resource for students who are
interested in conducting research by
9 Summer Research providing information regarding various
Program programs students can apply for. Stay tuned
for future VBRS events in the upcoming
An Interview with Dean 10 spring semester.
Mark Wolff
We hope that you all enjoy the 2018 Fall
Edition of our PDM Explorer!

Fatima Naqvi
Vernon Brightman Research Society,

12 Faculty Spotlight: Dr.
Rabie Shanti

VBRS Events 14

16 Introducing the VBRS


December 17, 1930 - October 17, 1997


Creative Scientist, Respected Teacher

"Vernon Brightman was a kind, well-educated and creative man.  Like many
Australians, he had a typical dry sense of humor.  One of my favorite photos of
him, in an SDM yearbook, was an illustration of a conversation between him and
another faculty member from “the colonies” in South Africa. They were gesturing
at each other, and the caption read, “I talk funny?  You talk funny!” As a dentist, he
was very dedicated to interaction with patients. He spent time with his patients and
students and was a good listener.  On the commemorative plaque in the second
floor oral medicine clinic is a single quotation, “Listen...”  It pained him to have a
student come up to him in clinic and say, “This tooth #18....”  He responded,
“...and the patient’s name is?”  It mattered to him to know about the patient and to
improve the quality of that patient’s life. He would be especially glad to see the
number of student presentations at Research Day this Spring focused on the Smile
Bus and care of young children in under-served portions of Philadelphia. He loved
children. He would give them a ride in the chair and let them look at the
instruments and let them look in his mouth. He wanted children to look forward to
going to the dentist and not fear the experience."

- Signe A. Brightman and family



Vernon Brightman Research Society
supports a travel grant to encourage Penn
Dental students to participate in research
conferences that pertain to dental medicine.
The grant cover travel expenses and cost of
conference for students to present their
research. Look out for the next application
deadline in 2019!



As a member of Dr. Hyun-Duck Nah's Lab in the Division of Plastic and
Reconstructive Surgery at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in conjunction with
the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, it would be an honor to
present our research at the annual IADR/AADR meeting... Attending the
IADR/AADR would further contribute to my growth as a researcher by presenting
and obtaining knowledge from some of the top researchers in the world.



By Abby Syverson, D4

Penn Dental has many exciting options for research. Regardless of your research experience, if
you want to get involved there are opportunities for you! Being involved with research helps you
gain a deeper level of scientific understanding and develop critical thinking, gives opportunities to
present at conferences, allows you to interact with other students and faculty you would not have
otherwise, and prepares you for future career endeavors such as residency.
It is important to take initiative in finding a project that is interesting to you and will fit your level of
commitment. Here are a few tips:

• Put the effort into finding a faculty member instead of waiting for an opportunity to materialize for
you. Think about topics that interest you and seek out faculty involved in those areas. Every
faculty member has their own expectations about your involvement in their lab so ask questions to
make sure it will be a good fit. Do not be shy sending e-mails or finding a time to meet. Keep in
mind that you may not have exposure to all the research faculty, so ask upperclassmen or use the
PDM research website to familiarize yourself with options.

• Commit to a project that you can finish while having enough time to study and de-stress.
Research in dental school shouldn’t be a burden that keeps you from excelling in other areas!

• Attend VBRS events to network with faculty and get help with your research proposals. These
events are specifically designed to make getting involved with research easier, so take advantage!

• Think about alternative opportunities like helping a resident with their research project, asking
different departments if they have clinical research positions available, or contact Penn faculty
outside of the dental school.

PDM provides abundant opportunities, but it is up to you to find a project that engages you!

PAGE 6 Photo by Alisa Lee


FEZ MOTIWALA, D1 I like the unpredictability of research. We come in with a hypothesis but that does not necessarily
always translate when we carry out our experiments. While this can be a source of frustration, I find
it humbling because it helps show how much there is left to understand about the world around
us. I’m really interested in stem cells, specifically their ability to regenerate and differentiate into
different cell types.

Over the summer I worked on a project with Dr. Mante regarding the surface energy of aged composite
resin materials and subsequent bond strength to simulate the repaired composite filling. I was inspired to
pursue this area of research while taking Dental Materials! It was important to me to have a more in
depth understanding of the materials that I will be using as a provider.


BLAKE WANG, D3 My research was on smell and taste dysfunction and its effect on mortality. I wasn’t sure what I wanted
to research at all, really. I sent out a bunch of emails just to explore my options. Upon meeting with
Dr. Doty though, I was sold. His passion and enthusiasm convinced me that his project was worth my
while. Hopefully my future patients will benefit from my research experience.

There are many reasons that make research fun and exciting. Each project brings the scientific

community just a little bit closer to discovering something that could make a difference, and it is a

great feeling to know you made a contribution to that. However, my favorite thing about research is

the people. Research gives me to the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals like myself,

work under the supervision of knowledgeable and supportive mentors, and form long-term

relationships that extend outside of lab. LANSARA JARUTHIEN, D4



Find out The Research Honors Program is open to talented
more! students in their first or second year at Penn Dental
Medicine who will plan, implement, and execute a
hypothesis-driven research project over a one to two
year period. Students will present their findings at
Research Day and complete an Honors Thesis at the
end of their fourth year.

Requirements to apply:
- Complete the application
- 1st or 2nd year at Penn Dental Medicine
- Undergraduate science GPA of 3.5
- Minimum 3.25 GPA each semester of Dental School
- Letter of recommendation from past or current

research supervisor
- Two-page research proposal
- Proposed timeline for completion of the project

Application due date: May 15th, 2019

Contact: Dr. Kathleen Boesze-Battaglia, Director of
Honors Program, [email protected]




Students work full time in July/August with a faculty Find out
preceptor on a research project in basic laboratory or more!
clinical sciences. A stipend of $1000/month is
provided. The purpose of this program is to provide
dental students a chance to experience a “hands-on
perspective,” especially for those interested in
research-oriented careers, thereby promoting
dentistry as a research-based medical science.
Students will present their findings at Research Day
and complete a summary report at the end of August.

Requirements to apply:
- Complete the application
- Good academic standing
- Availability to conduct research full time and attend

weekly research meetings
- Research proposal

Application due date: April 1st, 2019

Contact: Dr. Joseph DiRienzo, Assistant Dean of
Student Research, [email protected]




Why do you think it’s important for dental students to be involved in

Research does two things: it stimulates the intellect and gets our students to
think about complex questions in complex ways. When a student starts doing
research, they realize the variables, the difficulty, the things that make it hard
to get a straight up answer right off the bat. A percentage of those people
become our future educators. The research I did as a student is part of the
reason you see me here today as a dean. I started working on projects, they
meant something to me, and today we do things much better and it’s really
quite dramatic.

What is your background in research?

I started in dental biomaterials research working on how to polish porcelains.
I spent a lot of years working on what makes some amalgams stronger than
other amalgams. I also did research on bonding agents and bond strength. It
wasn’t until 5-6 years after dental school that I started doing anything related
to clinical research. What I learned there was meticulous attention to detail in
human research. It was in the late 80s that someone suggested a project about
how well a toothpaste polishes enamel. It was then that I got into the concept
of designing clinical studies to answer real clinical problems. I decided to do
a PhD in oral biology and pathology after 6 years in practice and that opened
me up to the world of research I’m in today. 



Why do you think research is important to dentistry in general?

I love dentistry because we get to make people smile. If we can get them to
smile and be more comfortable in who they are, to have less pain and spend
more time in school, what a victory. That’s where we have to make big
changes. I can teach you to be a great dentist, but if I teach you to make the
discoveries of the future... you never know what you’re going to discover.

What are you hoping to contribute to the research philosophy at

I would like to bring translational research to
Penn Dental Medicine in a big way. My career
has been in translational research looking at
questions from a clinical perspective. I
believe we’ll open up a translational
research center in the not too distant
future. In addition, I don’t think there’s
anything better than students doing
research projects. It’s time consuming
for faculty, it’s expensive, you break
things but... that being said, if we get
one or two people turned onto the
concept of discovery, it’s a giant success. 


Faculty Spotlight Rabie Shanti, DMD, MD 

Assistant Professor of Otorhinolaryngology 

By Dane Kim

     After completing the Fellowship Programs of Head and Neck Oncology and
Microvascular Reconstruction, Dr. Shanti holds a dual appointment in the Department of
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Penn Dental Medicine and the Department of
Otorhinolaryngology / Head and Neck Surgery at Penn Medicine.

     Dr. Rabie Shanti entered the Harvard University School of Dental Medicine after
earning his B.S. degree from Florida Atlantic University in 2002. After his second year at
Harvard, he made the decision to take two years off to pursue his passion for research at
the National Institute of Health under the mentorship of Dr. Thomas Flynn and Dr.
Bruce Donoff (current dean at Harvard Dental School). After the two years, he
discovered the area of research he would like to apply to his clinical works as tissue
engineering, for dentistry and oral maxillofacial surgery share a very reconstructive
nature. He continued his academic journey at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School,
where he earned his M.D. to become an oral surgeon.

     Clinically, his biggest passion and calling is the treatment of oral cancer patients. As it
is the most multi-disciplinary area of medicine in his view, involving a wide range of
professionals from social workers, hygienists, and speech therapists to dentists and many
different dental specialists, oral cancer treatment holds a special place in his heart.

     In research, his interest is two-fold: deeper understanding of tumor biology and
incorporation of cutting-edge technologies of regenerative medicine. Together, they
allow the current primary approach of surgical grafting to evolve into something less
invasive. With his mentor, Dr. Anh Le, he has been pursuing new technologies to use
gingival mesenchymal stem cells in concert with off-the-shelf biological construct from
porcine bladders or intestines to treat early stage oral cancers. The animal model studies
have shown its clinical effectiveness and benefits for the maintenance of the tongue
function. By avoiding the status-quo trend of grafting, he could not only reduce the 


number of area of operation and discomfort, but also construct a more normally
functional tongue, which also looks extremely close to normal tongues. As the current
mainstay of oral cancer treatment is surgery, his research vision is to identify technologies
to reduce the surgical footprints through advancement in regenerative medicine
techniques, incorporation of computer-aided planning, and surgical instrumentation to
minimize the previously discussed level of morbidity caused by grafting.

     Today, he is involved in four active projects through the OMFS Department,

Schoenleber Pilot Grant, and Osteo Science Foundation. The main focus of the projects

is to better understand the role of gingival mesenchymal stem cells in the pathogenesis of 

ameloblastoma, the most common benign tumor in

jaws. His vision for research is evident here, as well.

He believes that the surgical treatment for

ameloblastoma is too invasive for something benign;

the patient is losing a significant portion of the

mandible. For this vision, he is striving to find an

intervening alternatives, such as intralesional

chemotherapy and immunotherapy to allow the

patients to avoid going through surgical removal of

their mandibles. As of now, he has discovered that the

tumor cells of ameloblastoma require support from the

mesenchymal stem cells in bone marrow. As cytokines

are involved in this communication, the method of “Find something that you’re
inhibiting specific cytokine signals is showing a great really passionate about.
promise for the success of the projects.
Research is labor of love. It is

     Dr. Shanti finished the interview by reminding important to pursue

that, as an academician with the privilege to work in something that excites you. If

an environment with a plethora of resources, he has a you are looking at something
responsibility to advance the field both clinically and important to you, you will
scientifically as innovatively as possible. The always find yourself coming
responsibility is his contribution to the society, and back to it.”
what he owes to his patients.


Grace Huang Elizabeth Soulas Blake Wang
D2 D3 D3

Research Honors Bioengineering Summer Research
Program Dual-degree Program

grhuang esoulas wangby


January 2019 Student/Faculty Networking Event
February 2019 Research Proposal Workshop



Vernon Brightman Research Society held a Q&A panel with students
representing a variety of research opportunities available to students at
Penn Dental Medicine! D1 students were encouraged to ask questions
about each program while they enjoyed lunch by Jimmy Johns.

Joanna Ferguson Elizabeth Gross Derek Swanson Fez Motiwala
D2 D2 D2 D1

LDI Invisalign Summer Research Independent
SUMR@Penn Clinical Affairs Program Research

joannaf elgross dswans fmoti

Events: PAGE 15

March 2019 Oral Health Vendor Fair 
    April 2019 Research Day 




My research experience includes I joined a biochemistry research group
basic science research and public during undergrad to indulge my
health clinical research. During my
first and second year, I studied G- passion for scientific research. The
protein coupled receptors and their three-year project naturally led to my
expression in inflammatory conditions senior thesis and presentation, one of
my most rewarding experiences at
like dermatitis, asthma, and Cornell University. Currently, I am in
periodontitis by completing the Research Honors Program, where
immunohistochemistry. I am currently I designed a project on oral cancer and
participating in a team project to see chemotherapy resistance. I hope to
how effective a children's book that
has ADA guidelines impacts the enhance our understanding of the
understanding of oral health and mechanism behind chemoresistance,
dental care in young patients. which may lead to the discovery of a

President novel molecular target for cancer
Fatima Naqvi
Vice President
Alisa Lee

I did undergraduate research to I was an undergraduate research
characterize bone morphogenetic assistant for two years at

protein signaling during joint University of Florida and did
development and regeneration Summer Research Program at
within a chick embryo. I've also
done graduate research to
characterize Wnt10a and Wnt10b Events Coordinator
Iryna Mysnyk
mutant mice to determine how
these proteins regulate tooth


Troy Thayer

I started research in protein engineering during high school at RPI. We were working on
designing a protein to temporarily inhibit tight junctions in the blood-brain barrier to allow
passage of larger biotherapeutics to treat diseases like Alzheimer's. I continued research
through undergrad in cardiology/ biomedical engineering at WUSTL School of Medicine. My
project was focused on using adenoviral gene transduction to treat cardiomyopathies. I
basically did open heart surgery on mice and that was really cool! I'm looking forward to

getting involved in dental materials research at PDM!

Newsletter Editor I hope you enjoyed reading about the research opportunities at Penn Dental Medicine,
Kailin Baechle spotlights on students and faculty, and VBRS events. Our goal is to get as many students
as possible involved in research. It's a fantastic way to broaden your scientific knowledge

and hone your critical thinking skills that are key to clinical success! If you have any
questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us!

Thanks for reading!




I started research in immunology In high-school, I worked with a team to
since freshman year of high create a drug-interaction multi-layer

school at the Boston Children's network and presented our work at the
Hospital and continued throughout 6th international workshop for complex
networks, CompleNet. In college, I was
college at Duke. In my senior Project Leader for two aviation related
year, I briefly switched to
research projects where we created
musicology research to complete two Proofs of Concept that both won
my distinction thesis.
National Awards from the FAA. I
D1 Representative worked with various biofilm models and
Dane Kim their response to bactericidal agents in

Beginning my sophomore year, I became the presence of cis-2-decenoic acid.
involved in research with a faculty mentor Last summer I helped to write a review
who shared similar academic interests and paper that was published in the Journal
goals to advance current anthropological of Translational Andrology and Urology.
theories on social complexity. Under her
guidance, I explored research ideas that D1 Representative

complemented her international Noor Rehman
bioarchaeology project, ranging from
commingled human skeletal remains to During 2018, I participated in the Summer
Research Program supervised by Dr.
dental anthropology. With each Graves. I was immersed in an
subproject, I worked to contribute to our environment that required critically
thought-out design, execution and
knowledge on ancient health and to troubleshooting of an experiment. The
demonstrate the broader importance of
studying how the past has influenced the opportunity to do research allows one to
further appreciate the rigor that is required
present. to further dental-medicine education. I am
now more attentive and accepting towards
D1 Representative
Vu Tran new discoveries and inquires within the
field. I have a new-found pride within the
school due to the high standard of work

that is conducted by all the individuals
involved with laboratory or clinical studies.

D2 Representative

Spencer Tazumi

The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine (UPSDM) provides several
opportunities for students to be involved in research. Students who elect to participate, learn to
ask questions, research approaches to solving problems and learn the scientific methods that
have led to discoveries and treatments that are being used in dentistry. In addition to obtaining a

deeper understanding of your research subject, students benefit from the experience of
presenting their work and networking with colleagues and faculty engaged in similar research.

Students who are interested in specializing or further education often find that their research
experience is a significant advantage to furthering their careers.

The Vernon Brightman Student Research Society (VBRS) in collaboration with the SDM

organizes an annual health fair where students present their research. VBRS sponsors students

Faculty Advisor selected at the fair to travel to research meetings to present their work. VBRS is named in honor
Dr. Francis Mante of Dr. Vernon Brightman. Dr. Brightman was a professor of Oral Medicine and in the forefront of

research in infectious diseases. He champion for the cause of student research at the SDM.


Questions? Contact us at: [email protected]
Thomas W. Evans Museum and Dental Institute – dedicated 1915

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