Dental student a finalist for international junior investigator award
Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Erica Recker is a first-year dental student in the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, but already she is a research veteran, having worked in dental labs since she was a sophomore. This month, she is reaping some of the benefits from her experience after being named a finalist for a prestigious award from the American Association for Dental Research (AADR).

Erica Recker
Erica Recker

Recker will vie for one of the International Association for Dental Research-Unilever Hatton Competition Awards for junior investigators at the annual AADR meeting, held March 19-22 in Charlotte, N.C. The Oelwein, Iowa native has bagged one award already: She won the Max Smith Pre-doctoral Competition Award for her oral presentation at the 61st annual research meeting at the College of Dentistry earlier this year.

Recker is being mentored by Kim Brogden, director of the Dows Institute for Dental Research and a professor in periodontics, and Satheesh Elangovan, assistant professor in periodontics at the college.

“Research has given me countless opportunities,” says Recker, who began her research career working with Brogden. “Not only have I been able to learn new laboratory methods and techniques, but I have also had the chance to meet and interact with tremendous mentors and world-class faculty who are making great strides in oral health research each and every day. Conducting research here in the College has also allowed me to present my research on both the local and national stage.”

Recker will join 23 other UI dental students to present their research at the AADR annual meeting. Dental students from the UI have also presented at meetings of the American Dental Education Association, and the Midwest Dental Student Research Conference, among others. They’ve been involved nationally in other ways as well, from holding offices in the National Student Research Group to winning national and international awards. UI dental students have published articles as primary authors, and Recker herself has co-authored four published papers.

John Warren, director of the dental student research program and professor in preventive and community dentistry, notes the longevity of the program, established 40 years ago.

“The Dental Student Research Program has a very strong track record,” Warren says. “I don’t think there’s another dental school in the nation that has such a strong, long-standing program. The students who participate really benefit from the program, and we think that the critical thinking skills they develop with us help to make them better dentists. The faculty also benefit, as student projects often help to stimulate new areas of research or help to expand the scope of existing projects.”

The UI will boast the third-largest contingent among U.S. dental schools in terms of student, faculty, and staff presentations at the AADR meeting. This is not unusual; since 1976, UI Dentistry has ranked among the top five dental schools 31 times (including first place four times) with the number of presented abstracts—no small part due to dental students’ contributions.