Research Scholars Day: A student perspective

April 5th, 2016

Research Scholars Day has been a tradition at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry for 43 years. We caught up with a few dental and dental hygiene student researchers as they shared their posters and table clinics during the 2016 event, which was March 30.

Here’s more on what they had to share with us about their findings — and the research process itself.

The link between antidepressants and dental implant failure

Poster title: Bad to the bone

Students: Chloe Hargrove and Allison Nguyen, DH2s

Mentor: Leigh Ann Wyatt, assistant professor in the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene

Allison Nguyen and Chloe Hargrove discuss their table clinic presentation.

Allison Nguyen, right, and Chloe Hargrove, back left

What it’s about: More than 350 million people suffer from depression, making antidepressants one of the most widely prescribed classes of drugs. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors block the resorption of serotonin — the chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance — and allow it to remain in the brain longer, which helps patients suffering from depression feel happier for extended periods of time. The downside of SSRIs is that they inhibit the development of new bone, so patients using them have an increased risk of dental implant failure.

Most eye-opening part of the research: “Being able to connect a medicine that we see many patients in the clinics using to our research and then being able to take what we learned from our research back to the clinic,” says Chloe Hargrove.

Most head-scratching part of the research: “Understanding all the other factors that could contribute to implant failure in these patients. We had to ask, ‘Is it the depression? Is it the high cortisol levels or is it the meds, or a combination of all these things, and be able to explain it,” says Allison Nguyen. “It helped us see firsthand that we have to look at the whole patient.”

What your mentor brought to the project: “Ms. Wyatt helped us coordinate the flow of the poster and come up with the name for our research project,” says Nguyen. “She’s the best.”

“She is absolutely wonderful,” Hargrove says. “We could send her information and ask her questions, and she would respond to us immediately.”

Gauging effectiveness of migraine headache treatments: a step in the right direction

Poster title: A novel operant-based behavioral assay for testing migraine headache in mice

Student: Jeffrey He, D2

Mentor: Dr. Feng Tao, associate professor in biomedical sciences

D2 Jeffrey He, right

D2 Jeffrey He, right

What it’s about: Migraines impact more than 36 million Americans, and unfortunately, in many cases, these headaches respond poorly to treatment. Despite the debilitating effects of this condition — intense, throbbing pain in one or both sides of the head, visual disturbances, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and tingling or numbness in extremities or the face — there is a lack of reliable behavioral testing in animal models that reveal the efficacy of various migraine treatments. This research aimed to develop a way to assess behaviors of mice experiencing migraine headache. Migraine-like pain behaviors induced by a supradural injection of capsaicin, found in chili peppers, were studied.

Most eye-opening part of the research: “Probably learning about the migraine itself. Migraine headaches are still poorly understood in terms of what causes them. We don’t know for sure if it’s linked to blood vessels or the temporomandibular joint.”

What your mentor brought to the project: “Dr. Tao set the overall tone of the project. He showed me a lot of research papers on migraines, and since I had never done a research poster before, he guided me through it.”

Analyzing student survey results in an answer to a burning question: Does skipping class inevitably lead to a bad grade?

Poster title: Recorded lecture watching, not attendance, correlates with improved grade performance

Student: Allison Hinsberger, D2

Mentor: Dr. Darren Roesch, assistant professor in biomedical sciences

D2 Allison Hinsberger, center

D2 Allison Hinsberger, center

What it’s about: In the sciences-heavy first year of dental school, courses include such subjects as biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, neuroscience and microbiology. For this project, first-year students in spring 2013 were invited to complete an anonymous survey about their classroom learning practices to assess their impact on grades. Researchers analyzed habits including lecture attendance, respondents’ stated ability to focus during lectures, and whether respondents accessed recorded lectures to view online, then correlated those habits with grade performance. The next step involves adding results of the spring 2014 first-year student survey.

Most eye-opening part of the research: “It was surprising that lecture attendance did not have a high correlation with grade performance. Watching recorded lectures did.”

What your mentor brought to the project:I had never done research before, and Dr. Roesch was very helpful guiding me through the process of writing the abstract and creating the poster. He also was very helpful to me with the statistics. It’s been 10 years since I took that course!”

Parts of this article were contributed by LaDawn Brock and Carolyn Cox

— Jennifer Fuentes