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Students, Faculty Win Major AADR, IADR Awards

Ann Arbor, MI — March 27, 2015 — Five dental students, two of whom are dual-degree students, from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry won Research Fellowships from the American Association for Dental Research earlier this month in Boston.  Two faculty members also received major awards from the International Association of Dental Research.  The dental students, their mentors, and projects are:



Janet Zalucha (D3)

Janet Zalucha (D3)

Mentor:  Dr. Russell Taichman
Project:  Investigating the Role of Stem Cell Niche Signaling on Prostate Cancer
Research Focus:  Our lab studies the environment or “niche” where hematopoietic stem cells (stem cells that make up the blood) reside in the bone marrow and how tumors, like prostate cancer, spread to the bone.  We believe that altering stem cell/niche interactions may be useful in changing the progression of prostate cancer metastasis within the bone.  Hopefully, this knowledge may be helpful in treating cancer patients.


Joe Nguyen (3rd year PhD/D1)

Joe Nguyen (3rd year PhD/D1)

Mentor:  Dr. Paul Krebsbach
Project:  Mammalian EAK-7 is Novel Positive Regulator of mTORC1 Signaling in Cancer
Research Focus:  Under normal circumstances, mTOR signaling regulates a cell’s metabolism and ability to maintain stable conditions necessary for survival (homeostasis).  When mTOR does not function as it should, diseases including diabetes or cancer can occur.  Our lab is interested in understanding the role of mTOR signaling in human cancers (head and neck, lung, and breast). We are trying to better understand how novel regulators of human cancers increase mTOR signaling.

Nguyen, a dual-degree student, also won second place in the AADR Hatton Senior Division competition.


Lori Donnelly (D1/PhD)

Lori (Lorenza) Donnelly (D1)

Mentor:  Dr. Jan Hu
Project:  Characterizing a Novel DSPP Frameshift Mutation for the Development of Pharmacogenomic Interventions for Dentinogenesis Imperfecta
Research Focus:  This investigation seeks to characterize the mutations a group of inherited genetic disorders (non-syndromic dentinogenesis imperfecta) that prevent the proper formation of dentin during tooth development.  The goal is to identify disease-causing mutations and describe their pathologic mechanisms in a cell culture model that may later serve as a benchmark for developing therapeutic strategies to repair the effects of inherited dentin defects.


Chris Donnely (D1/PhD)

Chris Donnelly (D1/PhD)

Mentor:  Dr. Brian Pierchala
Project:  Identification and Characterization of a Novel Ret-dependent Subpopulation of Peripheral Taste Neurons
Research Focus:  This project is aimed at understanding what signaling mechanisms are responsible for the development of the sense of taste.  The effort focuses on how one family of signaling molecules, known as GFLs, are involved in the early development of the neurons that innervate taste buds and ultimately convey taste information to the brain.


Tarek Metwally (D2)

Tarek Metwally (D2)

Mentor:  Dr. Nisha D’Silva
Project:  Role of EGFR in GALR2 Induced Tumor Progression
Research Focus:  This research focuses on identifying protein markers for head and neck cancer with the aim of developing more effective and personalized treatments. We study samples directly from cancer patients and explore the signaling pathways underlying the proteins that are contributing to the clinical presentation. 

Faculty Receive Awards


Dr. Jan Hu

Dr. Jan Hu, Director of the Oral Health Sciences/PhD program, won the Distinguished Scientist Award for Basic Research in Biological Mineralization from the International Association of Dental Research during its annual conference.  The award recognizes and encourages basic research in biological mineralization.  Hu’s research focuses on determining the genetic causes and pathologic mechanisms of inherited dental disorders to improve diagnosis, intervention and likely outcomes of a course of action.  Hu joined the School of Dentistry faculty in 2002.  She is also the Samuel D. Harris Collegiate Professor of Dentistry in the Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences.

Dr. Gustavo Mendonça

Dr. Gustavo Mendonça received the Innovation in Implant Sciences Award that was presented by the International Association of Dental Research and the Academy of Osseointegration. 

This work is helping to better understand how osseointegration takes places and how the surfaces with nanoscale topography might be used to improve patient outcomes.  This could lead to developing novel biomaterials with a more direct effect on bone cells to enhance the success of implants and improve a patient’s quality of life.