Spring 2005 Table of Contents
     
Research in Focus
NYUCD-Mentored High School Student
Is Youngest Presenter at AADR/IADR
 

Ms. Rozina Khouryawad, center, with four of her mentors (from left to right): Dr. John L. Ricci, Mr. Michael J. Weiner, Dr. Van P. Thompson, and Ms. Elizabeth Clark (far right). Also shown: Christine Calamia, Class of 2007 (second from right). Not shown: Dr. Leila Jahangiri
Rozina Khouryawad, a 16-year-old high school junior who studied periodontal ligament regeneration and fibroblast cell growth during a summer student research training program at NYUCD, never enters a laboratory without two duplicate notebooks stuffed with scientific papers. "I need the extra notebook in case something spills on my original set of research protocols," explains Rozina, who last March became one of the youngest people ever to present her findings at an AADR/IADR meeting.

"As soon as I saw the duplicate notebooks, I knew Rozina would be the kind of super-organized person destined to succeed in biomaterials research," recalls Elizabeth Clark, an Associate Research Scientist and Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Biomaterials and Biomimetics, who mentored Rozina and administers NYUCD's summer program for high school and college students.

In fact, Rozina's study, entitled "In Vitro Fibroblast Growth on GTR Regenerative Materials," was successful not only because it was accepted by AADR and IADR but also because it has jump-started her plans to pursue a career combining dentistry and research.

"I've wanted to become a dentist since I was a small child, when I first noticed how quickly dentists can reshape smiles," says Rozina, who next fall will be a senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, Long Island. She also developed an interest in tissue engineering after reading an article about tooth regeneration, explaining that she likes "to create something from nothing to make people more beautiful." While searching the Internet for science internship opportunities that would earn her extra school credit, she came across NYUCD's Web site and contacted Associate Dean for Research Dr. Louis Terracio, who referred her to Ms. Clark and her summer research training program. "I suggested she work in an emerging area of research dealing with regenerating periodontal ligament that's been damaged from gum disease," recalls Ms. Clark, who put Rozina in touch with Dr. Leila Jahangiri, Dr. John L. Ricci, Dr. Van P. Thompson, and Mr. Michael J. Weiner, to discuss the parameters for a pilot study.*

Rozina undertook a one-week trial to evaluate how a wide range of different natural and artificial materials perform as foundations for regrowing periodontal ligament cells. In the first phase of the study last summer, Rozina grew mouse fibroblasts on the foundations. She repeated the study several times until she perfected her own protocol for culturing mouse fibroblasts in vitro. Working with her mentors, she coauthored an abstract describing her conclusion that fibroblast cells would likely grow best on foundations made from polyglycolide trimethylene, a resorbable carbonate fiber. In addition to the AADR/IADR presentation, the study won Rozina honorable mention from the northeast regional Intel International Science and Engineering competition for high school students, as well as recognition from two of Intel's cosponsors, Kodak and the U.S. Navy.

Next, Rozina plans to implant periodontal ligament cells on the foundations, and later plans to implant the cells in rats. In fact, she's committed to pursuing this research for years to come, noting that successful outcomes could pave the way for human clinical trials. And she already has a strategy for juggling her lab work with college courses. She plans to enroll in the seven-year combined BA-DDS program offered by NYUCD in conjunction with NYU's College of Arts and Sciences, followed by postdoctoral training leading to a career combining research and private practice.

"She's already as methodical as a graduate student," noted Ms. Clark.

*Dr. Jahangiri is Assistant Professor and Chair of the Dr. Louis Blatterfein Department of Prosthodontics; Dr. Ricci is Associate Professor of Biomaterials and Biomimetics; Dr. Thompson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomaterials and Biomimetics; and Mr. Weiner is a Research Assistant in the Department of Biomaterials and Biomimetics