Research Fellow Debora Heller PERIO 16 was honored with a Russek Student Achievement Award at Boston University’s 20th Annual Henry I. Russek Student Achievement Day. The Russek Award is presented to students who exemplify a strong commitment, not only to research, but also to the academic community. Heller has received extensive recognition for her research over the years on both an institutional and international level.
Heller received first prize for her abstract and gave the oral presentation, “The Effect of Serum on In Vivo Early Microbial Colonization of Tooth Enamel,” highlighting the research she has conducted under the guidance of her mentors in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology.
Heller’s research explores the effects of serum-derived proteins and peptides on tooth enamel surfaces, specifically studying the absorption of early microbial colonizers. Her study is the first to investigate whether serum proteins from gingival fluid in an in vivo formed acquired enamel pellicle will lead to biofilm characteristics conducive to the development of periodontal disease.
“The importance of this type of investigation centers on the hypothesis that the first events of bacterial attachment dictate all subsequent events, including those that lead to disease,” Heller said. “It is likely that information on the early pellicle colonization will uncover the key steps to pathology and provide new information on prevention and therapeutic management of these diseases.”
Heller is deeply honored to have received this award, especially due to its emphasis on both research and community engagement. She thanks her mentors, Drs. Frank Oppenheim and Eva Helmerhorst.
“I am thankful to my mentor Dr. Frank Oppenheim for all his guidance during my PhD studies, Heller said. “It is a real honor to learn on a daily basis from such an outstanding leader in the field of salivary research.” She continued, “I would also like to thank my co-advisor, Dr. Eva Helmerhorst, for all her advice and support, which is very important to my research.”