Student researcher in lab, collecting data samples

NIH/NIDCR Research Training Program


NIH/NIDCR Supported Training Program for PhD Students and Postdoctoral Scholars




Research conducted by USC’s dental school and Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology combines academic excellence with scientific methodology, prompting discoveries and answers to cutting edge questions deemed as high priority by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Building on 30-plus years of experience with highly productive T32 and T/R90 training grants, the continued goal of this program is to prepare qualified PhD and postdoctoral students for academic research careers that have a significant impact on the health-related, craniofacial research needs of the Nation. It is designed to help meet the growing need for biomedical research scholars and to foster innovative visionary, independent scientists who can affect change and improve world health.

NIH/NIDCR Research Training Program


We are seeking promising investigators for appointments to our NIDCR T90/R90 training grant, which provides PhD candidates and postdoctoral fellows with mentored, multidisciplinary basic, translational and clinical research training opportunities with a craniofacial or biomedical focus.


At any one time, we offer up to 2-years of training support to four PhD students and four postdoctoral fellows who are U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents (T90). We also provide up to 2-years of training support for non-U.S. citizen dentist-scientists, who currently reside in the U.S. and intend to pursue careers in dental, biomedical or craniofacial research at organizations located in the U.S. (R90).


This interdisciplinary training program links trainees to faculty mentors at the Ostrow School of Dentistry, Keck School of Medicine, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Mann School of Pharmacy, Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, Occupational Sciences and Occupational Therapy Division, Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Areas of Investigation


Trainees are mentored with the goal of generating new discoveries that identify, prevent, treat and cure diseases and abnormalities of the oral and craniofacial complex as it relates to the body as a whole, including, but not limited to:


  • Autoimmunity and immunology
  • Bioinformatics/Artificial Intelligence
  • Biomedical Engineering and Biomaterials
  • Bone Biology
  • Head and Neck Cancers
  • Human Microbiome – Virulence Mechanisms and Advanced Imaging by Cryo-electron Microscopy
  • Mechanistic Connections Between Oral and Systemic Health
  • Microbial molecular genetics
  • Oral Infectious Diseases
  • Neuroscience
  • Stem Cell Biology
  • Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine
  • Translational Genetics, Epigenetics & Genomics
  • Virology

Training Opportunities


A full stipend, tuition, health insurance and other benefits are available to support appointed PhD candidates and postdoctoral fellows for up to a 2-year period of training.







  • PhD-trained, non-degree seeking (T90- 4 appointments): Individuals in this track pursue traditional intensive post-doctoral, scientific research training and have the option of enrolling in courses that complement their research focus.  (Offered to U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents)
  • DMD or DDS plus PhD, non-degree seeking (R-90 – 1 appointment): This track is tailored for non-U.S. citizen/non-permanent residents with dual DDS/DMD and PhD degrees who seek intensive postdoctoral training.  They are supported by the R90; and may complete coursework that compliments their research focus.

Travel and Career Development


Career development activities are a central component of the program. Trainees are eligible to receive annual support for laboratory equipment and supplies, plus travel to research related seminars and conferences.


The program offers many events where graduate students and postdocs can come together to talk about science and socialize:

  • Journal club (12pm second Monday of the month)
  • Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology seminars (1pm most Fridays)
  • USC Stem Cell seminars (12pm most Fridays during the academic year)
  • Happy hour (4pm first Friday of the month)
  • Joint lab meetings
  • Thanksgiving and holiday potlucks and a lunar new year dumpling party
  • CCMB/Keck School of Medicine Symposium (annually)
  • CCMB retreat (annually)
  • Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry Research Day (annually in March)

You can view the calendar of events here (or subscribe via Google/iCal/etc here). We are also on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. The USC Stem Cell calendar is here (or subscribe here).



Readied with the excellent resources of an R1 research institution, our cohesive group of 18 faculty mentors are extremely well-equipped to provide rigorous and focused, yet optimally flexible, training opportunities for aspiring basic, translational and clinical scientists.


Mentorship is built on this collaborative core group of faculty who represent a diverse cohort of women and men from all points of the globe. As seasoned scientists, mentors provide students with insight, best practices and advice regarding professional development, including approach and methodology for scientific investigations.   Many are involved in national and international scientific research projects that allow students to combine knowledge and resources and form new ideas.


These distinguished mentors represent USC’s broad scientific community and collectively provide an extensive set of training experiences in the biomedical sciences that are directly relevant to improving society and combating disease. By working together, they are advancing craniofacial and biomedical research toward solving problems in health and promoting the well-being of society.


Faculty Mentors


Paul M. Beringer, PharmD
Pharmacokinetics and cystic fibrosis
Mann School of Pharmacy


Yang Chai, D.D.S, Ph.D.
Regulatory issues during early craniofacial development
Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology


Preet Chaudhary, M.D., Ph.D.
Blood and Marrow Transplant, Hematology
Keck School of Medicine


Casey Chen, B.D.S., D.D.S., Ph.D.
Periodontology, microbial pathogenesis
Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry


Jianfu Chen, Ph.D.
Brain development and craniofacial neuroscience
Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology


Cheng-Ming Chuong, M.D., Ph.D.
Pathology, tissue development and regeneration
Keck School of Medicine


Gage Crump, Ph.D.
Vertebrate cell fate specification
Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine


Leah Duker, Ph.D., OTR/L
Autism, sensory processing, multisensory Environments
Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy


Denis Evseenko, M.D., Ph.D.
Genetic Orthopaedic Research
Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine


Pinghui Feng, Ph.D.
Viral Proteins, Herpesviridae Infections
Biomedical Sciences


Amy Merrill-Brugger, Ph.D.
Skeletal Development and Disease
Biomedical Sciences


Janet Oldak, M.Sc., Ph.D.
Formation and mineralization of dental enamel
Biomedical Science and Bioengineering


Josh Neman-Ebrahim, Ph.D.
Neurobiology and Cancer Foundation Transdisciplinary Research
Neuroscience, Cancer Biology, Genomics


Michael L. Paine, B.D.S., Ph.D.
Maturation-stages of amelogenesis, enamel formation and disease
Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology


Jin-Ho Phark, D.D.S.
Dental porcelain, dental bonding, resin cements
Prosthodontics, clinical dentistry


Parish P. Sedghizadeh. M.S., D.D.S.
Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology and Medicine
Diagnostic Sciences, Anesthesia & Emergency Medicine


Malcolm L. Snead, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Biomineralization, Circadian, Biomimetics, Implant Interface, Dental Education
Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, Biomedical Sciences


Jian Xu, Ph.D.
Birth defects, tissue injury, epigenetics and disease
Biomedical Sciences


Stephen Yen, D.M.D., Ph.D.
Cleft Palate, Osteogenesis, Maxilla
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles

How to Apply/Review Process


Postdoctoral  and PhD fellowship candidates are nominated by individual program mentors or  by self-nomination. Applicants must submit:
1) A one-page “Specific Aims” summary/abstract adhering to NIH F31 (pre-doc) or F32 (post-doc) requirements;
 2) In no more than 3 sentences state how this project fits into the mission of the NIDCR; and
3) A NIH Format Biosketch (


Applications are reviewed and scored on merit by faculty who comprise our internal steering committee. Review criteria includes: strength of the applicant; training potential; merit of the research proposal and relevance to the mission of the NIDCR. Preference for predoctoral appointments will be given to those who have successfully passed their qualifying exams. Appointments are awarded throughout the year, and all applications will be maintained for the duration of the T90 funding period.  Applications can be updated at any time with a brief explanation as to what has changed since the prior application.




Predoctoral and Postdoctoral Application for T90 Training Grant Support

Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)


To advance our educational, scientific research focused mission, this training grant program is deeply committed to creating a culture that supports diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).


Our objective is to foster a diverse and inclusive environment that creates a scientific culture reflecting the faces of our community and to unbiasedly deliver on the promise of  unparalleled PhD and postdoctoral mentorship.


As educators and researchers, we strive for inclusivity and diversity in our program at all levels—from PhD students to postdoctoral fellows as well as from junior to senior faculty.  We are dedicated to providing mentorship throughout the careers of our students, trainees, staff and faculty mentors, and access to our wider network in academia and industry.


As scientists and leaders in the field of craniofacial biology and related biomedical disciplines, we understand that health disparities are key factors in the manifestation of disease. We aim to understand the biological basis of health outcomes experienced by different communities of all ethnicities, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, and socioeconomic statuses.


One of the greatest strengths of our training program is the synergy that emerges from our diverse labs and the larger USC community. The Health Sciences Campus (HSC), home to several hospitals and academic departments including the full spectrum of medical and pharmacy specialties, provides a rich environment for this collaborative spirit.

Contact Us


If you are interested in our program, please contact:


Michael L. Paine B.Sc., B.D.S.,Ph.D.
Program Director
Phone: (323) 442-3170


Amy Merrill-Brugger, Ph.D.
Co-Program Director
Associate Professor and Department Chair, Biomedical Sciences
Phone: (323) 442-1147


Janice Bea, MA
Program Administrator
Phone: (323) 442-1908


Mailing Address:

Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology
Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC
2250 Alcazar Street, CSA 103
Los Angeles, CA 90033-9062

Internal Steering Committee (ISC) Members


Collectively and individually the committee is dedicated to higher education in the basic sciences and to clinical, translational, developmental and public health research.


  • Kim Austin, DDS, Associate Professor of Clinical Dentistry, & Assistant Dean for Diversity, Inclusion & Access, Ostrow.
  • Janice Bea, BA, MS, Project Specialist, Graduate Programs in Craniofacial Biology, Ostrow.
  • Yang Chai, DDS, PhD, University Professor, Associate Dean of Research, George & Marylou Boone Professor of Craniofacial Molecular Biology, & Director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology.
  • Susan Forsburg, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, and PI of the T32 grant GM118289 titled Chemistry and Biology Interface (CBI), Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
  • Amy Merrill-Brugger, PhD (Chair), Chair, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Associate Professor of Dentistry, Ostrow and Keck.
  • Michael Paine, BDS, PhD, Professor of Dentistry, Ostrow.

External Advisory Committee (EAC)


The EAC is composed of three high-level, laudable consultants from outside USC who are current or former NIH/NIDCR T32 or T90/R90 Directors and have the necessary expertise to advise Drs. Paine and Merrill.


  • Pamela DenBesten, DDS, MS, Professor, Orofacial Sciences, School of Dentistry, UCSF.
  • Jan Ching Chun Hu, BDS, PhDSamuel D. Harris Collegiate Professor of Dentistry, Professor and Chair, Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences and Prosthodontics, School of Dentistry, UMich.
  • Michael Paine, BDS, PhD, Professor of Dentistry, USC.
  • David Wong, DMD, DMSc, Professor & Associate Dean for Research, Director for UCLA Center for Oral/Head & Neck Cancer Oncology Research, UCLA School of Dentistry.