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
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
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
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
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.