NIDCR awards funding to promote diversity in health-related research
February 25, 2021
The National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) notified Shivani B. Ruparel, MS, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Endodontics, that her application for diversity supplement funding was approved for Ms. Jaclyn Merlo, a second-year Master of Science student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
Benefits of the new funding are twofold. First, it allows Dr. Ruparel to promote diversity in research by providing Jaclyn, a racially underrepresented female student, with the training needed to obtain a Master of Science degree while also supporting her future ambition of acquiring a DDS/PhD dual degree to become a dental scientist.
Secondly, the rigorous training in both basic science and clinical research needed for Jaclyn’s future, allows Dr. Ruparel to engage her assistance in conducting an additional mechanistic study on an ongoing R01 research project
she is co-principal investigator on, aimed at exploring novel non-opioid targets for safe and effective pain treatment.
A strong proponent of diversity, Dr. Ruparel feels it greatly enriches scientific and biomedical possibilities for everyone.
“Promoting the underrepresented races as well as women in science brings in creativity, inclusivity as well as equality,” she shares. “This ultimately results in broadening our scientific perspective and brings science closer to reality. Fostering young trainees and helping them achieve their ambitious career goals is an optimal way to accomplish this much needed change.”
With a two-year timeline proposed, Dr. Ruparel and Jaclyn will test their hypothesis that activation of LTβR signaling by LIGHT has a significant role in modulating the inflammatory response and pain in oral cancer patients. Their research will provide further insight into the pathology of oral cancer and cancer-induced pain.
Jaclyn is a first-generation college graduate who aspired from a young age to pursue the profession of dentistry due to the lack of oral healthcare programs in her community. In managing her own medical hardships and despite academic counselors’ encouragement to switch career paths, Jaclyn has stayed the course.
She is currently on track to graduate with her Master of Science degree in Immunology and Infection in August 2021, after which time she plans to seek admission into the School of Dentistry’s DDS/PhD program.