Ariel Johnson, PhD in Oral Sciences candidate and Josh Padovano, DMD/PhD in Oral Sciences candidate have recently received fellowship grants from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, of the National Institutes of Health. The fellowships provide stipends and partial tuition support for scientists and clinician scientists-in-training. NIDCR invests in highly-qualified students to prepare the next generation of oral health researchers.
With her grant, Ms. Johnson seeks to understand the interaction between new blood vessel growth and scar formation. Through this research, drugs or therapies may be developed that can prevent scarring. Ms. Johnson is mentored by Dr. Luisa DiPietro.
Mr. Padovano’s study “aims to evaluate the effect of tissue-specific DMP1 overexpression in bone and teeth.” He hopes that this research can lead to “more effective treatment methods for patients suffering from conditions such as odontogenesis imperfecta types II and III, osteoporosis, conductive hearing loss, and hypophosphatemic rickets.” When asked what draws him to this type of research, Mr. Padovano said, “[t]here is a beautiful blend of highly complex and extremely basic chemical processes happening simultaneously.” Drs. Anne George of the Department of Oral Biology and Dr. Ana Bedran-Russo of the Department of Restorative Dentistry mentor Mr. Padovano.
The application process for the grant was both stressful and rewarding for these young researchers. Ms. Johnson described the experience as “[n]erve-wracking, terrifying, and exciting all at once!” Mr. Padovano found that the experience allowed him to “more greatly understand and appreciate the progress in [his] field.”
Both students cited unique qualities of the UIC College of Dentistry that helped them become ideal candidates for the grants. “I firmly believe that we have the best, most supportive mentors of any dental school in the country,” said Mr. Padovano. Ms. Johnson noted that COD has one of the few Wound Healing Centers that also holds an NIDCR-funded institutional training grant “to support PhD and PhD/DMD candidates while they are applying for their own funding.”
“Training grants, like the F31, are a stepping stone to a well-funded research career,” said Ms. Johnson. Both recipients are aware of the professional significance of receiving NIDCR funding. Mr. Padovano believes that “[g]iven the hard financial times and overall dwindling support for publicly-funded science, it is more important now than ever to compose a fundable grant.”
The College would like to congratulate Ms. Johnson and Mr. Padovano on this and future successes in their research endeavors.