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/ Categories: Strides in Science

Jane Shin - November 2013

In May 2013, AADR member Jane Shin began her 2013 student fellowship in the HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program. Shin is a D.M.D. student at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Shin was one of 66 students selected from more than 200 applicants. Shin is taking leave from the D.M.D. program to devote a year to her HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program research project titled “The Role of Appetite Hormone Ghrelin in Type 2 Diabetes-Associated Periodontitis.” Her project mentor is AADR member Toshihisa Kawai, at the Forsyth Institute.

Shin’s study is based on the hypothesis that Ghrelin produced in periodontal tissue plays a regulatory role on bone resorption caused by T cell-derived RANKL in the context of periodontal disease, and diminished Ghrelin in the type-2 diabetes (T2D) condition can be a risk factor for periodontal disease. She will work on examining the possible regulatory role of Ghrelin on soluble RANKL (sRANKL) production by activated T cells in in vitro experiments, and explore Ghrelin in an in vivo mouse model of type 2 diabetes-associated periodontal disease.

What motivated you to apply to be part of the HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program?
At Harvard School of Dental Medicine we have research requirement the summer after our first year. I chose to work in Dr. Kawai’s lab, where I worked on a project related to my HHMI one. We had about eight weeks to work on the project but I didn’t feel as though it reached its full potential in that short time span. Being part of the HHMI program gives me a full year to focus on the project and that’s the reason why I decided to apply to be part of it.

How was the process of applying to be in the program and what all did it entail?
The fellowship I applied for is one that supports a project that one finds on their own and it can be anywhere in the country. I chose to do my project at the Kawai lab, where I was previously. The application process involved writing a full proposal about the project and my plan. My mentor, Dr. Kawai, also had components he needed to submit, including a mentorship plan and a letter of recommendation. I needed to have two additional instructors provide letters of recommendations and, as the applicant, I had to prepare a research project plan together with my mentor. I also needed to prepare a personal statement. The research project plan needed the most preparation time in terms of writing it up and seeing what’s really feasible in a year. 

What were your thoughts going into the fellowship and what do you hope to gain from your participation?
Prior to this I had not had an opportunity to devote my full time and attention to just research and get experience with research techniques, especially in basic science. Through this program I hope to learn more techniques so that I have the tools for my career. I feel that it’s difficult to get that type of experience while you’re in school doing part-time research. I also look forward to learning how to take a project from start to finish, including writing the proposal to finding the results and bringing it all together.

At the conclusion of the program is there an obligation to present your research at a meeting?
Everyone involved in the program is required to present their project at the end of the year meeting, which takes place May 2014. Also, there is a separate fund to cover meeting costs to present this research at other meetings. I hope to present some of my work next year at the 2014 AADR/CADR Annual Meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

What would you say to encourage other AADR student members to apply to be part of the HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program?
This fellowship is very well respected among my biomedical school friends. I believe that in dentistry right now there has been a lot of progress in that aspect of research but I believe that it’s important for us to be well represented in the research community. In order for the field to progress we need to have people continuing to do research and understand disease processes better so that we can come up with more novel treatments. Also, a better understanding of disease processes is better for our patients. The HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program is a great opportunity and I encourage more dental students to take advantage of it. If you’re interested and you have a project you want to take on, this is definitely the best way to go about doing that research. 

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