Post-doctoral fellow Mitzi Boardman, DDS, MS, who is both a student in the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BCB) educational program as well as a trained dentist, recently had the opportunity to mentor dental students in the OHSU School of Dentistry. As her research involves using computational methods to better understand the molecular mechanisms of head and neck cancer, she hoped to give dental students the opportunity to experience an area of research that they would not otherwise encounter in their training. She felt that the topic of head and neck cancer was highly relevant for them as they are on the front lines of early diagnosis for this prevalent cancer.
According to Dr. Boardman, “I reached out and was welcomed to present my project to the student research group at the dental school to try to engage interested students. Two brilliant, enthusiastic, and committed second year dental students stepped up, and we worked together for several months. We met once each week for 1-2 hours. We processed our data and ran analyses during our meetings, and they did their reading and writing and thinking in between. In addition to their having a well-rounded research project and poster to present at research day, we had a lot of fun working together and they told me that it was a great growth experience for them.”
The students, Nicolas Maxim and James Bonar, presented their work at the dental school’s research day and were selected to present at the Oregon Dental Association Conference, where they took part in the student research competition. They won first place and a $1000 scholarship sponsored by the Oregon Dental Association. Dr. Boardman felt that the opportunity to work directly with the students and being a part of their success and growth as professionals was highly rewarding. She added, “I highly recommend seeking out mentorship opportunities as they are a vehicle for connecting our work with outside departments as well as building relationships that can be uplifting and empowering for the mentor as well as the mentee.”