Imagine being only 16 years old and working side by side at a lab bench with noted scientists at one of the nation's foremost research universities. Beginning in September, this dream will become a reality for some fortunate Los Angeles high school students with an interest in oral health.
Funding the vision is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), which announced June 21 that the UCLA School of Dentistry was the only dental school in the country to be awarded an HHMI 2007 Biomedical Research Institutions Initiative grant.
The award, which grants a total of $748,337 over five years, will enable the school to implement an extensive pre-college science education program to introduce gifted high school juniors and seniors from disadvantaged backgrounds to careers in oral health and scientific research.
"As a research-driven university on the forefront of advances in dental medicine, the UCLA School of Dentistry is an ideal institution to nurture a passion for science and discovery in young people," said No-Hee Park, the school's dean.
High school students enrolled in the College Bound of Greater Los Angeles program (www.collegeboundca.org) and Project GRAD Los Angeles (www.projectgradla.org) who are considering a college major in the sciences will be encouraged to participate.
During junior year, high school students will attend monthly science workshops, followed by an intensive six-week, in-residence summer research experience at a School of Dentistry laboratory on campus. During senior year, students will prepare their findings for a scientific poster competition at the annual June meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division.
Marvin Marcus, chair of the division of public health and community dentistry at the School of Dentistry, is project director of the HHMI grant, and Carl Maida, adjunct professor of public health and community dentistry, is the co-director. School of Dentistry faculty members Mo Kang, Jeanne Nervina, Ichiro Nishimura, No-Hee Park, Wenyuan Shi, Sotirios Tetradis, Kang Ting and David Wong will implement the research initiative by welcoming students into their laboratories.
"This unprecedented funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will enable UCLA to make great strides in expanding the pipeline for future dentist-scientists," Marcus said. "We look forward to providing an exceptional learning experience that raises young peoples' awareness of career opportunities in oral health research."
The UCLA School of Dentistry is one of 31 institutions selected for a HHMI Biomedical Research Institutions award, out of a pool of 127 applicants. The largest privately funded education initiative of its kind in the United States, HHMI's grants program enhances science education for students at all levels, from the earliest grades through advanced training. Since 1988, HHMI has awarded approximately $1.5 billion in grants.
The UCLA School of Dentistry is dedicated to improving the oral health of the people of California, the nation and the world and has established an international reputation for its teaching, research, patient care and public service initiatives. The school provides education and training programs that develop leaders in dental education, research, the profession and the community; conducts research programs that generate new knowledge, promote oral health and investigate the cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral disease; and delivers patient‑centered oral health care to the community and state. For more information, visit www.dentistry.ucla.edu.
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 300 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Four alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.