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In Review: Quarterly Scientific Meetings Spotlight Student Research

Isaac O. Donkor, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Students and Recruitment (left) & Donald B. Thomason, Ph.D., Dean (right) College of Graduate Health Sciences

The mission of the College of Graduate Health Sciences (CGHS) is to “improve the knowledge about human health through education, research, and public service, with an emphasis on improving the health of Tennesseans.” One way the College seeks to fulfill this mission is by hosting Quarterly Scientific Meetings (QSM). CGHS began the meetings in 2012 as one of several opportunities for graduate students to hone their podium presentation skills, publicize their research, as well as educate College constituents about the different types of research happening in the various programs of the College. At each session, three students are selected from different programs or tracks to present their work. The forum even provides interactive streaming of the sessions so that students and faculty located on all of our campuses can participate. In our inaugural session, the QSM featured a presentation from a student on our Knoxville campus.

This quarter’s presentation was held on May 4th and featured three students from UTHSC’s main campus. The presenters and a brief synopsis of their topics are as follows:

Dr. Amir El-Hassan (Dental Sciences – Prosthodontics) presented his work titled “Effect of trimethylsilane plasma coatings on the hydrophobicity of four denture base liners and on Candida albicans adhesion.” C. albicans is a ubiquitous fungus that is normally not a problem unless it overgrows. For 50% of denture wearers, C. albicans overgrowth can cause denture stomatitis and inflammation of the gums. Treatment involves antifungal agents and thorough cleaning of the dentures. Dr. El Hassan’s research investigated whether coating the base liner with trimethylsilane would increase their hydrophobicity and decrease C. albicans adherence, and thus decrease the possibility of (re)infection or re-infection. Dr. El Has- san found that the coating increased hydrophobicity and decreased C. albicans adherence.

Ms. Shajila Siricilla (Pharmaceutical Sciences – Pharmaceutics) is working on the development of a rapid, convenient, and cost-effective assay method to aid the discovery of novel drugs that are effective against dormant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB). Although individuals with dormant (latent) TB infections do not feel ill and are not infectious, some will eventually develop full-blown TB. Of particular concern are those individuals infected with extensively drug resistant TB. So, it is expected that this assay would facilitate the discovery of novel anti-TB drugs. Using the new assay procedure, the investigators have identified a compound that is effective against dormant TB.

Dr. Nathaniel Denson (Dental Sciences – Pediatric Dentistry) presented his work on biofilm formation on different types of restorative materials. He is investigating the adherence of Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium that is a contributor to tooth decay, to disks of various restorative materials, including a material that is relatively new on the market. The choice of restorative material takes into consideration many factors, including mechanical, chemical, and thermal properties. With his work, biofilm formation is now another consideration. Dr. Denson’s conclusion is that the new material that was tested has less adherence of the bacterium, and therefore may be a better choice for tooth restoration.

-Isaac O. Donkor, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Students and Recruitment (pictured left) & Donald B. Thomason, Ph.D., Dean (pictured right) College of Graduate Health Sciences