University of Buffalo receives $1.2 million grant to train future oral health researchers

 The Department of Oral Biology in the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Training Grant to allow PhD students and postdoctoral fellows to engage in critical oral health research in areas such as salivary gland physiology and oral infectious diseases.

The National Research Service Award Institutional Research Training Grant will provide $1.2 million from July 2013 through June 2018.

“There is a great need, perhaps even a mandate, to train new scientists how to work interprofessionally to produce research,” says Frank Scannapieco, professor and chair of oral biology and principal investigator on the grant. “Through innovative partnerships, our faculty has made great strides in their own research and can serve as excellent mentors for these trainees.”

UB’s Department of Oral Biology first secured a training grant from NIH in 1966, just three years after its inception; 2013 marks the department’s 50th anniversary, making it the longest standing PhD program in oral biology in the U.S.

Over the past 50 years, the department has produced more than 80 PhDs. Additionally, several hundred postdoctoral and visiting scientists have received advanced training through its programs, many of whom have gone on to make major contributions to dental research and education. Following their doctoral and postdoctoral training, most of the program’s alumni have continued on with successful scientific careers in academia, industry and government.

News of the award comes right after the department won a highly competitive UB-wide competition for funding, enabling them to hire five new full-time, tenure-track faculty members. The new faculty will bolster the department’s existing areas of strength in oral health and complex disease.

Scannapieco says that the new additions will diversify the expertise and experience of oral biology research at UB as well. The mix of research interests encompasses both basic sciences and clinical and translational sciences, creating a synergy that promotes collaboration among faculty within the Department of Oral Biology, and with UB units such as the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School of Public Health and Health Professions, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and UB’s New York State Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.

Currently, students complete 72 credit hours of instruction and dissertation research, much of which centers on cell biology and microbiology.

However, exposing students to a broad view of oral health and craniofacial diseases helps them build a deeper understanding of their current projects and aids them in their future research pursuits, says Scannapieco.

“The training provided in the oral biology program is both comprehensive and practical. Students are introduced to grant writing during their preliminary examinations and are encouraged to publish their results in high impact journals, both essential skills for a successful career in biomedical research.”

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB’s more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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