Student Research Recognized with AADR Bloc Travel Grants


Research preceptor Dr. Yan Yuan, Professor, Dept. of Microbiology and third-year student Justine Chiou (D’19) with research preceptor Dr. Fusun Ozer, Associate Professor of Restorative Dentistry, and fourth-year student Saro Atam (D’18).

Philadelphia – The research of two Penn Dental Medicine students – Saro Atam (D’18) and Justine Chiou (D’19) – has been recognized by the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) through the AADR Bloc Travel Grant awards. As 2018 recipients, they will present their research at the IADR/PER General Session & Exhibition, being held this coming July in London, England.

Funded by the NIH-NIDCR, the AADR Bloc Travel Grants are designed to provide an opportunity for dental students and NIDCR-supported trainees with the top abstract submissions to present their research on an international stage, supporting travel to the IADR General Session. Recipients are selected based on the originality of research design, innovations in technique, and scientific merit.

Atam’s research project is titled “Studying the Bond Strength of Orthodontic Brackets to Ceramic Materials” and was conducted under faculty preceptor Dr. Fusun Ozer, Associate Professor of Restorative Dentistry at Penn Dental Medicine.

“We are particularly proud of Saro and how he is able to successfully combine clinical practice and research,” says Dr. Ozer. “Since coming to Penn Dental as part of our Program for Advance Standing Students, he’s been active in research.”

Atam explains that his project was developed with Mark Guevarra (D’16, GD’18), a postdoctoral student within the school’s orthodontics program, to find the best surface treatment method for ceramic restoration surfaces to ensure reliable bonding of orthodontic brackets to those ceramic materials.

“With increasing scope of orthodontic treatment, the likelihood of encountering situations that require bracket bonding to ceramic restorations has increased manifold,” says Atam. “The adhesion of orthodontic brackets to teeth or different ceramic surfaces should neither fail during the treatment period nor should it damage the enamel surfaces during debonding.”

Chiou’s research was conducted as part of the school’s Summer Research Program under preceptor Dr. Yan Yuan, Professor, Department of Microbiology. Titled “The ESCRT Machinery is recruited in KSHV Assembly and Egress,” her research sought to elucidate key host proteins utilized by Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). KSHV is an etiologic agent for Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), the most common malignant cancer associated with HIV infection.

“Though KS lesions can affect different organ systems, 50% of AIDS patients with KS manifest oral lesions,” says Chiou. “It is crucial to diagnose KS early to prevent its progression due to the low 5-year survival rate of oral KS.” During her project, she identified certain Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport (ESCRT) proteins that are involved in KSHV budding. More interestingly, some ESCRT proteins demonstrated to be important for HIV envelopment, displayed little influence on KSHV budding.

“While the road to a preventative or curative treatment for KS still remains long and uncertain, my research experience helped me acquire knowledge on a pathologic disease highly relevant to the oral cavity and my future career,” says Chiou.

“Justine is a self-motivated and hard-working student who I envision will be a successful future dentist-scientist,” adds Dr. Yuan. Chiou’s research was also recognized at the 2018 AADR/CADR Annual Meeting held in March, where she was a finalist in the prestigious AADR Hatton Awards Competition (junior category).

Along with Chiou and Atam, a third Penn Dental Medicine student — Yuan Liu (GD’21), a DScD candidate and pediatric dentistry resident – will also be presenting research at IADR General Session & Exhibition in London. Liu was one of two winners in the AADR Hatton Awards Competition (postdoctoral category), and as such, will compete in the IADR Unilever Hatton Competition at the IADR General Session.