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W. Benton Swanson

OHS Program: DDS/PhD
Dissertation Advisor/Lab: Dr. Yuji Mishina

Ben earned his BS from Canisius College, where he studied chemistry and finance. He is currently in his 5th year of the DDS-PhD program, where he is focused on biomaterials engineering for regenerative medicine applications. At the University of Michigan, Ben has also pursued his entrepreneurial interests at the Ross School of Business.

My dissertation research focuses on characterizing the interaction of skeletal mesenchymal stem cells with synthetic biomaterial constructs and using these cell-material interactions as engineering design tools for developing platform technologies to study and treat disease related to the craniofacial complex. In particular, my dissertation foci are: 1) characterizing the role of scaffold pore size and curvature towards mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) progression on a trajectory towards differentiation or stemness based on biomaterial architectural features. Through mechanotransduction and its influence on extracellular matrix secretion, we can use biomaterial pore design to guide tissue fate, 2) developing a controlled release system for the efficient encapsulation and release of EVs from a tissue engineering construct to catalyze endogenous bone healing in vivo, and 3) developing bioinstructive tissue engineering strategies through novel polymers chemistry, which improves their predictability and clinical performance.

Following completion of the DDS-PhD program, Ben is interested in pursuing clinical training in periodontology. His long-term career goals are in bridging the gap between academic research and the biotech industry, particularly as it relates to regenerative technologies. He is interested in pursuing and leading early stage biotech startups, with long-term goals in venture capital.

Email: wbentons@umich.edu
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/wb.swanson

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Shawn Hallett

OHS Program: DDS/PhD
Dissertation Advisor/Lab: Dr. Renny Franceschi

I am originally from Southeastern Massachusetts, where I completed my undergraduate training in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Commonwealth Honors College. I then pursued a 2-year research technician position in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Liao at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine, where I was a core member of the Developmental Genomics Anatomy Project (DGAP) and FaceBase II: Rapid identification and validation of human craniofacial development genes project in addition to investigating the roles of Irf6 target genes in orofacial cleft pathogenesis in zebrafish. When I'm not in the lab or studying dentistry, I spend my time training for marathons, cycling, traveling and enjoying time with my partner and pup.

My research is grounded in elucidating novel molecular regulators of skeletal stem and progenitor cells in the long bone growth plate and cranial base growth center synchondroses using genetic mouse models. Although morphologically similar and endochondral in nature, these two tissues possess highly dynamic and unique developmental regulation. Therefore, it is imperative to better understand the pathways involved in their development in order to generate targeted pharmacological and tissue regeneration approaches aimed at restoring normal structure and function of malformed or damaged endochondral tissues.

In the future, I seek to integrate fundamental developmental biological mechanisms with novel methods in tissue engineering and regeneration in order to repair congenital diseases and/or trauma-induced damage to the appendicular and craniofacial skeletons. As an independent clinician-scientist, I aim to leverage my clinical dental expertise and knowledge of skeletal development and regeneration in order to make a profound impact in the lives of patients.

Email: shallett@umich.edu
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shawn-hallett
Twitter: @ShawnAHallett

Noam Gannot

Noam Gannot

OHS Program: PhD
Dissertation Advisor/Lab: Dr. Peng Li

I was born in a suburb of Tel Aviv, but grew up moving back and forth between Israel and the United States. I went to the University of Maryland, College Park and received a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering with a minor in French Studies in 2018. Following my graduation, I worked at the National Institute of Mental Health as a Postbaccalaureate. I started the OHS PhD program in the summer of 2019 and am a graduate student in Dr. Peng Li’s lab. When I passed my preliminary exams and became a PhD candidate, I rewarded myself by adopting my dog, Thor. I am also currently attempting to cook all the recipes of a pie cookbook I was given. It's been terrible for my running physique.

I am interested in conducting research that has a direct application and relevance to public health. Specifically, my research interests are in neuronal circuits and how different neuronal populations play a rule in eliciting a specific behavior. Dr. Li's lab studies the cellular and molecular control of breathing and I focus on the neuronal circuit the controls coughing.

My professional goal is to become a respected neuroscientist and an independent investigator, where I can continue to pursue my love of research. If all goes well, I hope to one day become a professor in a research-focused institution.

Email: ngannot@umich.edu

CHristina Jones

Christina Jones

OHS Program: DDS/PhD
Dissertation Advisor/Lab: Dr. Isabelle Lombaert

Christina completed an Associate of Science from Wayne County Community College District and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Detroit Mercy. Under the mentorship of Dr. Eric Krukonis, Christina studied bacterial pathogenesis at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry as a ReBUILDetroit Scholar. Prior to joining the DDS/PhD program at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Christina also completed a summer internship at the National Cancer Institute and a post-baccalaureate research fellowship at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. At NIDCR, Christina studied irradiation-induced salivary hypofunction in Dr. Matthew Hoffman's lab.

Under the mentorship of Isabelle Lombaert, Christina is studying the mechanism driving salivary gland epithelial stem/progenitor cell self-renewal and differentiation. Currently, she is interested in understanding the Hdac1-Sox10 interaction and the underexplored role of Hdac1 in the salivary glands. More broadly, she is interested in 1. developing stem cell-based therapeutics to repair radiation-damaged salivary glands and 2. unraveling the involvement of stem cells in salivary gland cancers.

In the long-term, Christina aims to pursue translational and clinical research focused on novel therapeutics of head and neck disorders, such as autoimmune diseases and neoplasms of the salivary glands.

Email: cejone@umich.edu
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/christina-e-jones
Instagram: @dualdegreedentistry
Twitter: @scientist_jones

Erika Danella

Erika Danella

OHS Program: DDS/PhD
Dissertation Advisor/Lab: Dr. Nisha D’Silva

I was born and raised in Rhode Island, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Quinnipiac University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and minors in Anthropology and Chemistry. As an undergraduate, I was engaged in both biological and bioanthropological research. I participated in two National Science Foundation REUs, which ultimately led to the decision of pursuing a career as a clinician-scientist. I aim to use basic science approaches to address public health issues, so I enrolled as a DDS/PhD student at the University of Michigan in 2019. When I'm not in lab, I enjoy reading, crocheting, and baking technical challenges from The Great British Baking Show.

The goal of my dissertation research is to understand and characterize a molecular mechanism that enhances the invasion oral cancer cells. More specifically, I am interested in how non-malignant cell subpopulations in the tumor microenvironment aid in tumor progression, ultimately leading to tumor recurrence and metastasis.

After completing my DDS and PhD, I would like to pursue a residency combined with a post-doc. My ultimate goal is to remain in academic dentistry, facilitate the transition of basic science research to the clinic, and teach and mentor future generations of clinicians to engage in evidence-based practice.

Email: edanella@umich.edu
Twitter: @erika_danella

Erica Siismets

Erica Siismets

OHS Program: DDS/PhD
Dissertation Advisor/Lab: Dr. Nan Hatch

Erica is a true Wolverine -- she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2017 with a BSE in Materials Science and Engineering and subsequently began the DDS/PhD program. She is currently in her fifth year of training. Juggling dental school, research, and mentoring undergrad students in the lab keeps her very busy, but in her limited spare time, she enjoys practicing yoga, skiing, and traveling.

Erica’s research is focused on studying the mechanisms underlying Crouzon syndrome, one of the most common craniosynostosis (premature fusion of cranial bones) syndromes. Utilizing both in vitro and in vivo models, she aims to establish how specific mutations in FGFR2 result in the Crouzon syndrome craniofacial phenotype. She is currently investigating intracellular protein processing, trafficking, and degradation mechanisms of Crouzon mutant FGFR2 protein as potential etiologies for abnormal skull development and growth.

Erica’s career goal is to treat children born with craniofacial anomalies as part of an academic hospital-based surgical care team.

Email: esiis@umich.edu

Erica Siismets

Marsha-Kay Hutchinson

OHS Program: DDS/PhD
Dissertation Advisor/Lab: Dr. Nisha D’Silva

Marsha-Kay immigrated to the United States from Jamaica after gaining admission to Howard University. She graduated with a BS in Biology, Phi Beta Kappa, before participating in a post-baccalaureate fellowship program at the National Cancer Institute at NIH. At the NIH she studied the effects of steroid use on the efficacy of checkpoint blockade therapy used to treat patients with brain tumors, under the mentorship of Drs. Mark Gilbert and Amber Giles. In her free time she enjoys making memories with family and cooking.

Radiation is a potent inducer of cell death. However, select cancer cells have devised mechanisms to evade the deleterious effects of radiation resulting in treatment resistance and poor patient outcomes. Current research endeavors focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms of radiation resistance in head and neck cancer with the goal of identifying actionable targets to re-sensitize tumors.

Marsha-Kay aspires to pursue her research interests in biomarker discovery long-term, promote diversity in science and healthcare through mentorship, and offer clinical service to underserved populations.

Email: marshakh@umich.edu
Twitter: @MarshaKH

Erica Siismets

Hulya Taner

OHS Program: DDS/PhD
Dissertation Advisor/Lab: Dr. Yu Leo Lei

Before graduating from high school, I knew that I was going to be a dentist. It was during college, however, that I realized that I belonged in research. I decided to join the DDS/PhD program at UMich because it allows me to combine my two passions in a world-class research lab of Dr. Leo Lei.

I am a DDS/PhD Pre-Candidate student interested in both basic science and translational research of head and neck cancer (HNC). Currently, I am fascinated by the transformation of oral epithelial dysplasia to full-blown cancer. While in my PhD program, I hope to contribute a mechanistic understanding about how pre-cancerous tissue evolves and what immune subsets are affected in this process.

My career ambition is to be a dental researcher. I love being a scientist studying immuno-oncology, and believe that my skills as a (one day) dentist will better inform my research into head and neck cancer.

Email: tanerhf@umich.edu
Twitter: @HulyaFTaner