UConn-NIDCR T90/R90 Research Training Program

UConn-NIDCR T90/R90 Research Training Program

The UConn-NIDCR T90/R90 Research Training Program at the UConn School of Dental Medicine supports and enhances the training of individuals preparing to be independent scientists in academics, industry and government, and related careers. The program is an interdisciplinary, research-intensive training program that is supported by a T90/R90 grant from the NIH/NIDCR. The program primarily focuses on skeletal, craniofacial and oral biology research. Research mentors are from the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Medicine and the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine with additional advisors and resources available at the UConn Storrs campus. Research strengths in the program are described under the faculty links.

The UConn program provides training in three tracks. The links to each track provide information on admissions, curriculum and faculty.

Mina Mina, D.M.D., M.S.D., Ph.D. T90/R90 Co-Director Professor and Chair Division of Pediatric Dentistry

Frank C. Nichols, D.D.S., Ph.D. T90/R90 Co-Director Professor Division of Periodontology

D.M.D./Ph.D. Track

The School of Dental Medicine sponsors a program leading to joint D.M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. It is designed for a small number of outstanding students who are interested in research and have the motivation and the ability to pursue a rigorous training program in this area. The program is designed to train individuals who are interested in pursuing research related to Oral and Craniofacial Sciences and Health and interested in careers in academic dentistry and beyond.

The program provides a comprehensive D.M.D. and Ph.D. education and training that draws upon the strong curriculum of the School of Dental Medicine and excellent and diverse research faculty in Biomedical Science in the Graduate School. Completion of the D.M.D./Ph.D. program positions the individual for subsequent training in postdoctoral research programs or combined postdoctoral research/clinical certificate training. This training provides a natural transition for the D.M.D./Ph.D. graduate to move into more advanced clinical and research training.

All trainees must be U.S. Citizens or permanent U.S. residents. Trainees receive a stipend and financial support covering the cost of tuition, health insurance, and limited research related expenses and travel.

Applicants interested in the D.M.D./Ph.D. program must apply for the D.M.D. program at UConn Health and therefore should follow the requirements listed for Admissions to the School of Dental Medicine. Applicants should indicate their interest in the combined program in their personal statement. In addition, they should submit a separate letter of interest in the combined training addressed to Dr. Mina as early as possible.

Mina Mina, D.M.D., M.S.D., Ph.D.
Director, D.M.D./Ph.D. Program
Department of Pediatric Dentistry
263 Farmington Avenue, MC 1610
Farmington, CT 06030
Email: mina@uchc.edu

Qualified applicants will be interviewed by the D.M.D./Ph.D. admission committee during their visit for the interview for dental school. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Mina before making travel arrangement for their visit to UConn Health.

Applicants can also apply to the D.M.D./Ph.D. program during the first two years of the D.M.D. program. Interested students should contact Dr. Mina.

The D.M.D./Ph.D. trainees normally complete both programs, including the Ph.D. dissertation, in a period of approximately 7-8 academic years, including summers. The program integrates both D.M.D. and Ph.D. programs in three phases.

Phase One (Two Years)

In phase one, students pursue the first two years of the traditional D.M.D. curriculum. All dental students participate with the medical students in the Basic Medical Science (BMS) program as provided by the faculties of the Medical, Dental and Graduate Schools. Laboratory-based preclinical activities, such as operative dentistry and prosthodontics, are not taken in the second year but are taken in the year preceding re-entry into the third year of the D.M.D. curriculum before entering the patient care phase of the dental curriculum.

D.M.D./Ph.D. trainees will also complete one or two research laboratory rotations in the summers between Y01-02 and Y02-03. In the summer between Y02-03, in addition to working in the lab, students prepare for and take the National Board Dental Examination. By the end of the summer of the second year, each trainee selects their major advisor, from the program’s Faculty and the area of concentration, for their Ph.D. studies.

Phase Two (Three to Four Years)

In phase two, the trainees enter the Graduate School as full time students to fulfill the Ph.D. requirements of the Biomedical Science Ph.D. Program and of the specific area of concentration. During this phase, students follow the milestones/timeline in the Ph.D. in Biomedical Science.

Late in phase two, the trainee will defend their thesis and take the necessary preclinical courses and laboratory work to bring their clinical skills to the level necessary for patient care at the start of Y03 of the D.M.D. curriculum.

Phase Three (Two Years)

In phase three, the trainee completes the D.M.D. requirements. The third and fourth year of clinical training is a comprehensive-care continuum for which competencies have been established to monitor progress toward and suitability for graduation. The trainee, while engaged in the D.M.D. clinical practicum, continues to participate in research activities in their mentor’s laboratory.

Core Activities

To provide a solid, common foundation, all trainees in each of the three tracks of the T90 training program participate in core activities. In addition to providing important training elements, the core activities provide opportunities for both formal and informal interaction between trainees in various disciplines, in the three training tracks, and at various stages in their training. Please see our Core Activities for more information.

Ph.D. Track

UConn Health offers a Ph.D. in Biomedical Science (B.M.S.) designed to educate individuals dedicated to pursuing careers as scientists and scholars in biological and biomedical science in a wide variety of settings including academia, the private sector and in government service. To achieve this goal, an academic environment is maintained which fosters creative thinking and supports programs leading to excellence in scholarship, research and teaching. The program is dedicated to quality education tailored to the needs of the individual student. A detailed program description and information about laboratory rotations, the B.M.S. areas of concentration, the application process, and financial aid can be found at the UConn Graduate School.

The T90 Ph.D. track is available for trainees who wish to undertake Ph.D. training following their B.A./B.S. degree or after completion of their dental training. Ph.D. students interested in support from the T90 must first be accepted into the B.M.S. Graduate Program. Priority for T90 support is given to students who are at least in their second year of training, have selected an Area of Concentration, and have chosen a major advisor who is a T90 faculty member for their thesis project. Applicants for the T90 Ph.D. track are nominated by their major advisor.

All B.M.S. Ph.D. trainees receive financial support that includes a stipend, and tuition and health insurance support. The T90 partially relieves the faculty advisor from providing support and additionally provides limited funds for research related expenses and travel. Ph.D. trainees are also encouraged to prepare and submit a F31 application to NIH for individual support.

NIH requires that all T90 applicants be citizens or permanent U.S. residents.

Trainees and T90 mentors from all areas of concentration are encouraged to apply. While the major advisor nominates and applies for the T90 support, trainees are encouraged to contact the program director, Dr. Mina Mina for additional information.

Core Activities

To provide a solid, common foundation, all trainees in each of the three T90 tracks participate in core activities. In addition to providing important training elements, the core activities provide opportunities for both formal and informal interaction between trainees in various disciplines, in the three training tracks, and at various stages in their training. Please see our core activities for more information.

Postdoctoral Fellowships

1. Traditional post-Ph.D. basic science training.

2. Post-D.M.D. training.

2a. Post-D.M.D. interested in Biomedical Science Ph.D. training Ph.D. track requirements.

2b. Post-D.M.D. interested in advanced basic science research training, but not seeking a Ph.D. degree.

3.  Post-D.M.D. or post-Ph.D. interested in clinical and translational research training.

Traditional Post-Ph.D. Postdoc

Trainees who enter the program with a Ph.D. will focus largely on advanced research training with their mentors and training for an independent research career.

Post-D.M.D. Trainees

We anticipate that trainees in this category will have various backgrounds and career goals. Therefore, each program will be custom designed based on their individual experiences and needs. Trainees who undertake postdoctoral research training without a Ph.D. or extensive research training may need additional formal training. They will audit graduate level courses in Biomedical Science as appropriate for their background and their research project. Post-D.M.D. trainees interested in Ph.D. training can also be supported.

Post-D.M.D. or Post-Ph.D. Clinical and Translational Research Training

This track provides opportunities for both D.M.D.'s and Ph.D.'s interested in training in clinical and translational research. Depending on their previous training, candidates may need further didactic training in this discipline and could enter the two-year Master of Science in Clinical and Translational Research (MSCTR) Program.

Research and Training Plan

Each postdoctoral trainee will have a primary mentor, at least one additional scientific mentor to be selected by the trainee and primary mentor, and an appropriate representative from the T90 Steering Committee. As part of the T90 application process, the trainee, with the guidance of the mentor, will prepare a research prospectus (similar to a grant application) that will include background, specific aims, experimental approaches to be used, a research timetable, and appropriate references. This initial research prospectus serves as a guide for the research project. The trainee and mentor will also prepare an individual development plan (IDP), describing the activities that will prepare the trainee for an independent career. This plan could include course work, development of writing and presentation skills, training in mentoring students, preparing grants, lab management, and participation in scientific conferences.

Postdoctoral trainees (citizens or permanent U.S. residents) will, in their first year of support, either prepare and submit an F32 application or write a research grant application that is at or near a stage of readiness for submission.

Core Activities

To provide a solid, common foundation, all T90 trainees, including all postdoctoral trainees, participate in core activities. In addition to providing important training elements, the core activities provide opportunities for both formal and informal interaction between trainees in various disciplines, in all training tracks, and at various stages in their training. Please see our core activities for more information.

Application Process, Support

Candidates interested in postdoctoral training support from the T90 must first identify and be accepted into the laboratory of a T90 mentor. Once working in the laboratory, the mentor and the candidate together apply for a T90 when the availability of positions is announced. As an NIH-funded program, applicants must be citizens or permanent U.S. residents. We also have one postdoctoral position for a foreign trained dentist that is supported by the R90 training program. Applicants for this position must be foreign and NOT a citizen or permanent U.S. resident.

Trainees receive a stipend and financial support covering health insurance, limited research related expenses, and travel.

Core Activities

To provide a solid, common foundation, all trainees in each of the three tracks participate in core activities. In addition to providing important training elements, the Core Activities provide opportunities for both formal and informal interaction between trainees in various disciplines, in the three training tracks, and at various stages in their training.

There Are Six Core Activities:

Monthly Meetings serve as the unifying activity for all supported trainees throughout the duration of their training. The primary purposes of the monthly meeting are to:

  • Allow trainees to give informal updates on their research.
  • Facilitate interaction and develop cohesiveness among all trainees.
  • Acknowledge accomplishments and address concerns.
  • Discuss training grant administrative issues with trainees.
  • Provide programs and information on career and grant opportunities.
  • Provide supplemental training on responsible conduct of research.
  • Allow the program directors to hear directly from the trainees about their progress.

These meetings provide an opportunity for trainees to present to a diverse audience. We believe there is real synergy to be gained by developing a more cohesive group. The students learn from each other, help each other, and by example, establish a common expected rate of progress and career directions. The monthly meetings may also include specific sessions on:

  • Publications (who is an author and why; who is not an author).
  • Intellectual property (preparing invention disclosures, managing confidential. information, working with industry, commercialization of research results, licensing versus start-up company).
  • Preparation of manuscripts (when is there enough data for a publication, how do you get started, how do you maintain momentum, referencing and plagiarism, tools such as Photoshop and EndNote).
  • Preparation of your first independent grant proposal.

The trainees themselves set the agenda for each monthly meeting.

Training in Responsible Conduct of Research

Training in responsible conduct of research is covered through institutional training programs, but will be supplemented by additional sessions for all trainees on the training grant.

Craniofacial and Oral Biology Course

This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of present and future research opportunities and challenges in craniofacial and oral biology. An emphasis is placed on the underlying mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of craniofacial and oral disorders, the identification of unsolved questions, and consideration of possible approaches to investigate these questions. Each week various faculty, usually currently funded by NIH/NIDCR, present on selected topics describing the background and current status of the field. Later in the week the class discusses a contemporary research article in the field. During the course trainees prepare two very brief research proposals and receive one-on-one feedback from a faculty expert. The proposals are then reviewed by the class in NIH “study section” format. The course is offered in alternate years.

Training in Grant Preparation

All trainees are expected to prepare and submit a grant application for their continued support after 1-2 years of research training. We provide specific training sessions for grant preparation. Our faculty have had experience in reviewing training (F), career development (K), small research grants (R03), and traditional R01-type proposals.

Annual Symposium

All trainees attend and present their work at our Annual Symposium.

The format of the symposium provides participants an opportunity to present their work in a structure and environment similar to most national and international scientific conferences. Career development sessions are usually part of this annual cap-stone event.

Weekly Journal Club

All trainees participate in at least one weekly journal club appropriate to their area of research training. These journal clubs not only provide education of current scientific activity, but offer valuable experience with analyzing, interpreting and evaluating peer-reviewed publications. Trainees also have opportunities to present their own work and gain feedback from a variety of faculty and other students.

More About Us

The NIH/NIDCR supported UConn-NIDCR T90/R90 Research Training Program at the UConn School of Dental Medicine prepares individuals for careers in academics, industry, government and other related fields. Our research training programs have been funded by NIH/NIDCR for over 25 years. Our graduates are faculty, department heads and deans at major universities; direct clinical trials at pharmaceutical companies; develop educational programs at various academic levels; or pursue a range of other career paths.

Our program supports trainees in three different tracks. The links to each track provide information on admissions, curriculum and faculty. Trainees need to be accepted into a degree program or research laboratory before applying to the T90/R90 for support.

Trainees work closely with their major advisor to develop a custom program of education and research training. In an open, collegial environment, we learn together in the classrooms, laboratories, journal clubs and at national and inter-national conferences and meetings. Meet Our Trainees and see what they are doing!

Ph.D. in Biomedical Science Areas of Concentration
Cell Analysis and Modeling (CAM)
Cell Biology (CB)
Genetics and Developmental Biology (GDB)
Immunology (IM)
Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (MBB)
Neuroscience (NS)
Skeletal, Craniofacial and Oral Biology (SCOB)

Our Faculty is the strength of the training program. The faculty are active, funded, independent researchers working on a wide range of biomedical and oral/craniofacial challenges. Most faculty work in collaborative teams, so trainees are exposed to multidisciplinary research areas. The research interests of our faculty are broad, with examples including: skeletal biology, osteogenesis, development, tissue engineering, repair, and regeneration, genetics, the oral microbiome, extracellular matrix biology, and progenitor/stem cell biology.

Graduate education at UConn Health leading to the Ph.D. degree is unified under the Biomedical Science Ph.D. (B.M.S./Ph.D) program.

In a recent evaluation of University of Connecticut graduate programs by the Committee for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Programs, the B.M.S./Ph.D. program was rated as having “national distinction.” This umbrella program is comprised of 156 graduate faculty and 7 thematic areas of concentration listed in the adjacent table. The composition of the graduate faculty of each area of concentration is interdepartmental and crosses the boundaries between the School of Dental Medicine, School of Medicine and the Graduate School. UConn Health faculty sponsor approximately 175 Ph.D. students and 120 postdoctoral fellows in UConn Health’s various departments and centers. Many faculty participate in more than one area of concentration. Our T90/R90 training program is closely associated with Skeletal, Craniofacial and Oral Biology (SCOB), but we have had trainees in almost all of the areas of concentration.

Our Faculty

Adam Adler, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Mechanisms of T cell tolerization to peripheral self-antigens, as well as, the relations between tolerance and tumor immunity.

Hector Aguila, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Hematopoiesis and bone marrow microenvironment, lymphoid cell development, stem cell biology.

Robert Aseltine Jr., Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest:  Risk prevention; community based trials.

Ernest Canalis, M.D.


Research Interest: Skeletal growth factors, insulin-like growth factors, hormonal action in bone, mechanisms of glucocorticoid action in bone, and anabolic agents and osteoporosis.

Gordon Carmichael, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Regulation of gene expression in eukaryotes.

Stormy Chamberlain, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Epigenetics, induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) models of human disease.

I-Ping Chen, D.D.S., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from craniometaphyseal dysplasia (CMD) patients and investigation of osteoclast biology in human stem cell system as well as in CMD mouse models.

Jeff Chuang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Computational biology and bioinformatics; genomics, gene regulation, molecular evolution, and metabolomics. Post transcriptional regulation and cancer genomics.

Justin Cotney, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Determining how gene regulatory elements, namely enhancers, control gene expression during mammalian development.

Caroline Dealy, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Limb and skeletal development; stem cells for cartilage repair and limb regeneration.

Anne Delaney, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Extracellular matrix biology, and post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in bone cells.

Patricia Diaz, D.D.S., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Oral biofilm ecology in health and disease.

Anna Dongari-Bagtzoglou, M.S., D.D.S., Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Pathogenesis of oral opportunistic infections in the immunocompromised host. Oral infection-induced inflammation. Innate immune factors limiting oral fungal infections.

A. Jon Goldberg, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Structure-property relationships for biomaterials, tissue engineering, fiber-reinforced composites.

Rosaria Guzzo, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Identification of key epigenetic mechanisms that modulate the cartilage-forming potential of human iPS cells.

Laura Haynes, Ph.D.


Research Interest: How aging influences immune responses, especially to infectious diseases such as influenza and bacterial pneumonia.

Christopher Heinen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Biochemical and cellular defects of the DNA mismatch repair pathway during tumorigenesis.

Jeffrey Hoch, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Biophysical chemistry of proteins.

Marja Hurley, Ph.D.

Professor Medicine

Research Interest: Role of Fibroblast growth factors and fibroblast growth factor receptors in bone homeostasis.

Ivo Kalajzic, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into osteoblast lineage.

Anne Kenny, M.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Interventions that decrease risk for falls, fractures and frailty in older men and women such as testosterone and vitamin D supplementation.

Yusef Khan, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Strategies to synthesize scaffolds that are also capable of delivering proteins and growth factors essential for complete and adequate healing of bone defects through the use of biodegradable polymers alone and in combination with ceramic materials.

Kamal M. Khanna, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Identifying the factors and the role they play in controlling the anatomy of a primary and secondary immune response in the hopes of explicating the underlying mechanisms that guide the complex movement of T cells during the infection and recall responses in lymphoid and non-lymphoid tissues.

Liisa Kuhn, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Bone tissue engineering using stem cells.

Sangamesh Kumbar, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Design and development of biodegradable scaffold systems for tissue repair and regeneration applications.

Marc Lalande, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Role of epigenetics in disease and development.

Reinhard Laubendacher, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Development of mathematical algorithms and their application to problems in systems biology, in particular the modeling and simulation of molecular networks.

Cato Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Vice President of Health Affairs, Dean of School of Medicine, Professor

Research Interest: Regenerative engineering using scaffolds of appropriate physical and chemical cues to differentiate stem cells to complex tissue type.

Charles Lee, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Structural (and copy number variation) in the human genome and the genomes of model organisms.

Kyeong Lee, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Osteoclast biology and molecular and cellular regulation by cytokines in osteoclastogenesis.

Jun Li, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Stem cells, neural development and degeneration.

Alex Lichtler, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Focus on the molecules that regulate the differentiation of osteoblasts.

Mark Litt, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Cognitive, behavioral and affective processes that lead to changes in behavior in many health-related domains, including substance abuse, chronic pain, anxiety control, and exercise behavior.

Edison Liu, M.D.


Research Interest: Human cancer genomics, oncogene discovery, and translational molecular oncology.

Joseph Lorenzo, M.D.

Professor Medicine

Research Interest: The influence of the immunological system on bone remodeling; and the influence of estrogens and androgens on both bone resorption and the formation of bone resorbing cells (osteoclasts).

Peter Maye, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Skeletal biology, osteogenesis, mesenchymal stem cells.

Bruce Mayer, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Mechanisms of signal transduction.

Mina Mina, D.M.D., Ph.D.


Research Interest: Elucidate the mechanisms regulating mandibular outgrowth and morphogenesis with an emphasis on the roles of signaling factors secreted by mandibular epithelium.

Lakshmi Nair, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Regenerative biomaterials, tissue engineering, cell material interactions, injectable biomaterials.

Frank Nichols, D.D.S., Ph.D.


Research Interest: Study of periodontal bacterial lipids and their capacity to promote autoimmune disease through activation of the innate immune system.

Syam Prasad Nukavarapu, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Design, fabrication and optimization of biodegradable scaffolds for bone tissue engineering, scaffold osteocompatibility evaluation in vitro and bone regeneration ability in vivo, methods to achieve scaffold vascularization for enhanced osteogenesis and bone regeneration via endochondral ossification.

Zhenqing Ouyang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Development and application of statistical and computational methodologies in the area of regulatory genomics. Chromatin structure, IncRNA, epigenomics and epitranscriptomics, and regulatory network.

Carol Pilbeam, M.D., Ph.D.


Research Interest: Regulation of bone formation and resorption in order to prevent and treat osteoporosis and to enhance skeletal repair.

Ernst Reichenberger, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Bone homeostasis in rare craniofacial diseases.

Blanka Rogina, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Investigation of the basic biology of aging, including the molecular genetic determinants of aging and longevity.

Daniel Rosenberg, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Molecular genetics of colorectal cancer, signaling pathways in the development of tumors; toxicogenomics.

David Rowe, M.D.


Research Interest: Skeletal tissue repair and regeneration.

Archana Sanjay, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Regulation of bone remodeling; examining signaling pathways that regulate osteoblast and osteoclast differentiation and function.

Linda Shapiro, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Research Interest: Understanding the regulation and function of cell surface

Howard Tennen, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Studies the dynamics of stress and coping.

Suzy Torti, Ph.D.


Research Interest: Regulation of iron metabolism and the relationship between iron and cancer.

Duygu Ucar, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interest: Developing computational models to take advantage of existing datasets to study the dynamics and mechanisms of transcriptional gene regulation and propose testable hypotheses.

George Weinstock, Ph.D.


Research Interest: DNA Metabolism in bacteria and phages.

Our Trainees

Sierra Root


B.S., Chemistry-Biology, University of Hartford, 2005

Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences-Genetics and Developmental Biology, UConn Health, 2014

Postdoctoral Fellow (Year 3)

It is my career objective to advance the field of monocyte and osteoclast development, their supporting cell types and their role in pathological conditions. During my Ph.D., I focused on human embryonic stem cell derived monocytes and osteoclasts as well as monocyte/osteoclast progenitors from human peripheral blood. I chose a postdoctoral fellowship at UConn Health to further develop my doctoral projects and study the role of monocytes, osteoclast and bone supporting cells within the hematopoietic compartment of the murine bone marrow within the collaborative initiative at UConn Health specifically in the Muscoskeletal Biology Research labs.

Michelle Spoto


B.S., Biomedical Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology

In pursuing both a D.M.D. and Ph.D., I want to better understand the field of dentistry from both a clinical and scientific standpoint. My goal is to work as a clinician and researcher at an academic dental institution.

I chose UConn Health for its emphasis on evidence-based dentistry and its significant research contributions. Over the past three years, UConn Health has given me the skills to be an inquisitive self-learner. Looking forward to learning even more during my time here!

David N. Paglia


B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY, 2006

M.S., Biomedical Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, 2008

Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering, Rutgers University and NJIT Joint Program, Newark, NJ, 2011

Postdoctoral Fellowship: Rutgers, Newark, NJ, 2011-2012

Postdoctoral Trainee: UConn Health 5th Year (T90 NIDCR Trainee-3rd Year), Farmington, CT

It is my career objective to promote the advancement of research in the fields of orthopaedics, cell biomechanics, and musculoskeletal biomechanics. Through my research endeavors, I plan to mentor rising scientists and pursue teaching opportunities. I chose a post-doctoral fellowship at UConn Health based on the strong foundation for collaborative research and mechanistic approach towards musculoskeletal research. As a T90 Trainee, I have been privileged to work in a well-respected group with supportive mentors and to have the support of the T90 committee mentors.

David Manz


David graduated from the University of Connecticut with a major in biological Sciences and a minor in business. He is currently in his fifth year of the combined D.M.D./Ph.D. program at UConn Health. Being a former intern at UConn Health, David felt very comfortable with the culture and the opportunities available here. David aspires to integrate clinical practice with advancing knowledge to innovate, and ultimately improve patient care.

Ninna Shuhaibar


Dentistry, University of Zulia, Maracaibo, Venezuela

Postdoctoral Fellow: UConn Health, Cell Biology Department

After completing my degree in Dentistry in December 2015, I became interested in developing a career as a researcher to complement my clinical training. I have been working as a postdoctoral fellow at UConn Health since July 2016. In the future, I am interested in pursuing an orthodontist degree with the ultimate goal of applying my research skills to help develop new therapies for the improvement of dental health.

Why UConn Health? Because it has a great dentistry department both in the clinical and research and it is also a welcoming environment for people all around the world.

Veneta Qendro


B.S., Biology, University of Natural Sciences in Tirana (Albania)

B.S., Biomolecular Sciences, Central Connecticut State University

Ph.D. Candidate, Biomedical Sciences, Cell Biology

In the near future, I would like to incorporate the knowledge I have gained during my years of research into investigating new pathways of cancer therapy, in the academic or industrial setting.

Matthew A. Zambrello


Undergraduate Degree: Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut

D.M.D./Ph.D. Student, Year 6

After I complete the D.M.D./Ph.D. program, I intend to integrate my NMR skills with a better understanding of healthy and diseased periodontium through completion of a residency program in periodontology. This will allow me to identify the most important questions that affect periodontal health and to apply my skillset to them through multiple avenues including NMR-based metabolomics studies of the oral flora, structural studies of inflammatory proteins and studies of disordered proteins that are involved with biomineralization. Over the longer term, I would like to obtain a position as faculty at a dental school so that I can teach, conduct research and see patients.

I chose to attend UConn because of the high quality of School of Dental Medicine and the unique opportunities it offers for clinicians and scientists. The School of Dental Medicine is renowned in Connecticut for being an outstanding institution. This status reflects the excellent training that it offers to its students. In particular, the strong emphasis on basic science makes the curriculum well designed. During my time here, I have also learned how important it is to get immersed in the community and to get involved in ways outside of strictly science and dental medicine.

A. Vijaykumar


B.D.S., Mumbai India

M.S., University of Medicine & Dentistry New Jersey (Rutgers School of Dental Medicine)

5th Year Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences, Skeletal Biology and Regeneration (SBR)

My long-term career objectives are to incorporate research and clinical dentistry to make a career as a clinician-scientist. The Ph.D. program at UConn Health provides an excellent environment to train and work with accomplished minds from diverse backgrounds that will help me achieve my professional goals.

Ryan P. Russell


B.S., Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut

M.A., Biomolecular Sciences, Central Connecticut State University

My goal is to remain in academia in order to teach the next generation of scientists while pursuing my own research interests and fostering outside collaborations with industry to improve musculoskeletal repair outcomes.

After completing my master’s program, I did an internship in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and held a position in clinical research here at UConn Health. I wanted to further my basic skeletal biology research knowledge to translate basic science breakthroughs to the clinic to improve the quality of life for individual patients.

Patience Meo Burt


B.S., Biology, Post University, 2009

M.A., Molecular Sciences, Central Connecticut State University, 2010

Currently I am a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Biomedical Science program. I chose UConn Health due to the outstanding skeletal biology program and research opportunities that combine basic science and human health. In the future, I hope to continue to incorporate this translational component in my scientific career.

Henry C. Hrdlicka


B.S., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Nebraska Wesleyan University, 2014

I chose to perform my Ph.D. studies at UConn Health due to its umbrella program. Without this unique feature, I would never have been able to rotate in a variety of labs across different Areas of Concentration, which eventually led me to skeletal biology and regeneration and my thesis lab and mentors.

Upon completion of the program, I aspire to stay in academia where I will divide my time between teaching and training the next generation of students and pursuing my own research interest in skeletal autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Annual Symposium

2017 Symposium

June 16, 2017

The 2017 Annual Symposium of the Skeletal, Craniofacial & Oral Biology NIH/NIDCR T90 Training Program was held in the new UConn Health Academic Rotunda. Trainees presented eight oral talks and six posters. Our special guest this year was Dr. Ophir Klein, Professor of Orofacial Sciences and Pediatrics, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Dr. Klein spoke on development and regeneration in odontogenesis and dental stem cells, provided feedback on the trainees’ presentations and informally spoke about academic life and career decisions.

2017 Symposium Brochure

View Photo Gallery

2016 Symposium

June 6, 2016

The 2016 Annual Symposium for our NIH-funded research training program in Skeletal, Craniofacial and Oral Biology will be held on June 6th at UConn Health, Farmington. In this formal program our trainees do oral and poster presentations describing their original research work.

This year’s guest speaker is Sotirios Tetradis, D.D.S., Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Section of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, UCLA School of Dentistry. Dr. Tetradis trained at our School of Dental Medicine. In addition to his scientific talk, Dr. Tetradis will spend the day at the symposium, ending with a special, informal discussion with our trainees on his career path and life decisions along the way.

2016 Symposium Brochure

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2015 Symposium

June 8, 2015

The School of Dental Medicine NIH-supported research training program in Skeletal, Craniofacial and Oral Biology (SCOB), held its annual symposium on June 8, 2015 at UConn Health. Nineteen trainees presented their research findings. Dr. Martha Somerman, Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, was our special guest. Dr. Somerman presented a lecture to the UConn Health community, and spent the day learning about our trainees and their research.

2015 Symposium Brochure

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2014 Symposium

May 3, 2014

Skeletal, Craniofacial and Oral Biology Symposium

UConn Health’s federally-funded grant to train people for careers in Skeletal, Craniofacial and Oral Biology (SCOB) research sponsored its annual capstone symposium last month. Seventeen trainees presented their research findings on topics including how bone, cartilage and teeth develop; genetics; biomechanics/biomaterials; and regeneration of diseased or damaged tissues. Linda Strausbaugh, professor of molecular and cell biology at UConn Storrs presented a keynote lecture on the role of fungi in the oral environment. Three alumni of the UConn Health program described their own experiences and career opportunities for the current trainees. Read More >

2014 Symposium Brochure

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Contact Information

For information on the D.M.D./Ph.D., Ph.D. or Postdoctoral training tracks of the UConn-NIDCR T90/R90 Research Training Program, please contact:

Mina Mina, D.M.D., M.S.D., Ph.D.
T90/R90 Co-Director
Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatric Dentistry
UConn School of Dental Medicine
263 Farmington Avenue, MC 1610
Farmington, CT 06030
Email: mina@uchc.edu