The Summer Dental Student award is an 8-week research opportunity for dental students at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in Bethesda, Maryland. Accepted students are assigned a summer project based on their research interests. Importantly, students receive a generous stipend for their participation, which is helpful because rent tends to be quite high in the area.
The NIDCR is located on the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the United States’ primary medical research center and the largest provider of funding for medical research in the world. In addition to participating in cutting edge research, students can attend the many NIH seminars about the other types of research taking place on campus, listen to presentations on career options and advice, and even take trips off campus (such as day trips to the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, MD).
The lab I’m working in focuses on epithelial-mesenchymal interactions during tooth development. I’ve been assigned a short list of transcription factors to analyze and to determine which cell types express them during various stages of tooth development in mouse models. I’ve been able to learn valuable basic research techniques such as PCR, qPCR, sectioning and preparation of histological slides, and immunostaining. Though the workload is demanding and we are required to present our findings (whether or not we get good results), at the end of the summer, there is a lot of free time with which to explore Washington, DC. Some of the best museums in the country are located right here (Air and Space, American History, Natural History), and many of them are completely free. With the upcoming election, the political climate in the area can also be very entertaining; there are always noisy and entertaining protestors at the White House and at the Supreme Court. Finally, this has been an excellent opportunity to meet other dental students from all around the country. We’ve been able to meet up for happy hour at local bars after work, and spent the 4th of July on the National Mall together to enjoy the fireworks.
So far this has been a great opportunity to experience dental research, meet new people, and spend the summer in a new and exciting part of the country. Now I just need to cross my fingers for good research results.