Fourth-year DMD student wins award at Hinman Student Research Symposium

Weihao Wang DMD 20 won a Basic Science Research Award at the 25th annual Hinman Student Research Symposium for his project, “Early Determinants of Ductal Patterning in the Developing Submandibular Gland.” More than 100 dental students and trainees from across North America gave oral and poster presentations on their research projects during the Hinman Symposium, which was held in early November 2019 in Memphis, Tennessee. Ten outstanding projects were selected for awards, five for basic science research and five for clinical research.

Wei conducted his research in the laboratory of Dr. Maria Kukuruzinska, associate dean for research and ad interim chair and professor of Translational Dental Medicine at GSDM. They studied the development of the submandibular salivary gland, specifically focusing on presumptive duct formation in early embryonic mice, aiming to map the development pattern of salivary glands on a molecular level. This research represents an important step towards efforts to regenerate human salivary glands in patients who suffer from Sjogren’s syndrome and from side effects of radiation therapy.

Wei’s research career began as an undergraduate at SUNY Albany, where he worked in the laboratory of Dr. Melinda Larsen on salivary gland tissue development. During his time there, he won multiple awards and STEM fellowships for his research work. After graduating from dental school, Wei plans to continue his research into regenerative endodontics therapy while using his strong evidence-based skills to practice dentistry in the patient treatment center.

The Hinman Student Research Symposium is sponsored by the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry and co-sponsored by the Hinman Dental Society. The event aims to recognize and encourage student dental research. This year’s Symposium featured Dr. Martha Somerman, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) as the keynote speaker.

Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter and Dr. Kukuruzinska presented Wang with his award during a ceremony in the dean’s office on Monday, January 6, 2019.

“I’m very honored to receive this award,” said Wang. “I’m happy to see all my hard work pay off, and in the future, I want to use this honor and also my enthusiasm to strengthen my career path and become a better clinician.”