USC University of Southern California

Celebrate Research

USC School of Dentistry students and faculty showcased their research to both faculty judges and the public during the school’s third annual Research Day, held Feb. 18 at the Galen Center.

The 76 projects spanned a variety of investigations and included dentistry students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and School of Dentistry faculty members, as well as students from the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy and the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

Francisco Valero Cuevas, associate professor of biomedical engineering, delivered the plenary lecture on the integration of engineering and neuroscience.

The 2009 Dean’s Award for the overall outstanding project went to biokinesiology and physical therapy doctoral candidate Christina Dieli-Conwright for “Influence of Hormone Replacement Therapy With Maximal Eccentric Exercise on Estrogen Receptor Coregulators and Skeletal Muscle Damage in Postmenopausal Women.”

The project also took top honors in the exercise science category of the biokinesiology and physical therapy awards.

Investigators presented important basic science discoveries on the fundamentals of human health and movement. They also introduced innovative new clinical approaches and treatment protocols, said Richard Hull, Health Sciences campus senior director of innovation advancement and business development with the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation.

“I’m very impressed with the level of research presented as well as how the researchers have thought about the practical application of their research,” Hull said. “It really shows the culture of innovation within the School of Dentistry.”

The winner of the USC Stevens Most Innovative Award, given to the project with the highest likelihood of translating into practical use, was postdoctoral graduate Zhan Huang for “Cell Proliferation and Differentiation Guided by Bioactive Peptide Amphiphile Nanofibers During Enamel Regeneration.”

The project explores certain factors that influence biomineralization, the process by which tooth enamel accumulates minerals in order to become rigid and strong.

“We hope to one day have the potential to restore the natural structural integrity of the tooth,” Huang said.

Research is an enriching activity for students at all levels to participate in, and events such as Research Day teach students how to share their valuable information with others, said Dennis Mangan, School of Dentistry associate dean for innovation and discovery.

“Research Day is an example of how we communicate scientific data and the conclusions that we draw from it,” Mangan said. “Research can’t be done in isolation; it is never complete without communication.”

Pascal Magne, a Research Day faculty judge and School of Dentistry director of esthetic dentistry, agreed that research is a great opportunity for students to refine their communication skills.

“Many of their projects have very clinically relevant ideas,” he said. “Research Day acts as a nice platform for students who then go on to present their work at other professional meetings.”

Research Day is not only an opportunity to increase the common scientific knowledge base, but it is a way for students to enrich their personal learning experience, said Marcelo Freire, a predoctoral graduate student and Research Day award winner.

“Research motivates and inspires students to be engaged and involved in their learning,” Freire said. “It’s rewarding to come to Research Day, present our work and get feedback. It’s how we learn and grow.”

Complete List of Winners:

Dean’s Award for Overall Outstanding Project

Christina Dieli-Conwright

USC Stevens Most Innovative Award

Zhan Huang

Advanced Specialty Program Resident Awards

First: W. Daniel Han
Second: Derek Wong

Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy Student Awards

Exercise Science
First: Christina Dieli-Conwright
Second: David Erceg

Musculoskeletal Biomechanics
First: Shawn Farrokhi
Second: Szu-Ping lee

Neural Control and Motor Behavior
First: Shailesh Kantak
Second: Jill Stewart

Graduate Postdoctoral Awards

First: Jun-Ichi Iwata
Second: Kentaro Akiyama

Graduate Predoctoral Awards

First: Marcelo Freire
Second: Luis Henrique Schlichting

Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Awards

First: Jess Holguin
Second: Sook-Lei Liew

Doctorate of Dental Science Student Awards

Basic Science
First: Mi Young Kim
Second: Joseph Yu

Clinical Science
First: Brik Nielsen
Second: Kyle Stanley