I am ecstatic to share my research experiences and lessons with you! To start, I am corn fed Midwestern, born and raised in Kansas, moved to Missouri for my undergraduate degree, and headed west for a goldmine of knowledge in San Francisco at UCSF to pursue my DDS. Currently, I live in Bethesda, Maryland. “Why?” I have taken a year between my clinical training years at UCSF to do research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Specifically, I am a part of the NIH Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP) and am doing research at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Why did you decide to do this program?
I became interested in research during undergrad, spending two summers in a basic science research lab in Kansas City. In dental school I completed a summer of research and afterward found it hard to balance a basic science research project and dental school training. However, I wasn’t ready to leave the vibrant learning environment in the laboratory. I learned about the NIH MRSP at the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) conference, and realized it would give me the opportunity to dig deep into a research project and learn how to scientifically evaluate past, present, and future oral healthcare practices to improve patient care.
What is your research about?
In the past my research projects have focused on craniofacial development on mouse and duck models. Currently, I am working with cell cultures. I am researching the invasion and metastasis of oral cancer cells. The lab I joined, Dr. Ken Yamada’s lab, focuses on extracellular matrix and cell development. Upon entering, the lab they had a few ideas to help me get started with the oral cancer cell lines, evaluating their invasive capabilities and mechanisms responsible for their behavior. Working with cell culture has helped me better understand the mechanistic principles of development.
What would you recommend for someone who is interested in going down your same path?
If you are interested the slightest bit in research, learning how to ask good questions, or pursuing a career in academia, apply for the NIH MRSP! It may seem daunting to take a year away from dental school, but any challenges you face and overcome will only make you a better leader and dental professional, regardless the path you choose. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Take advantage in exploring various career paths while you are in school, you have absolutely nothing to lose.
Are you interested in NIH Medical Research Scholars Program? Comment below!
~Molly Hague, San Francisco ’16