Research Programs

Research is an integral component of the school's research portfolio. From national fellowships and presentations to awards and recognition, CU's dental and graduate students expand their knowledge of evidence-based dentistry in the lab and clinic.

Clinical training and oral health research serve to improve the dental care provided to the public. Continuous progress in dental research enhances accuracy in diagnosis and improves patient management.  

At present, the School of Dental Medicine does not offer a DDS/PhD degree option. However, dental students are encouraged to participate in oral health research.

Summer Research Scholarship Program

Incoming dental students may apply for the Summer Research Scholarship Program. This program enables eligible students to experience basic science or clinical research for a sustained period of time during the summer prior to beginning their dental studies. The student conducts a research project for eight weeks under the direction of a faculty member in the School of Dental Medicine. Participating students are hired as student employees and are provided funds for supplies.

Student Research Group

The University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine Student Research Group (SRG) is the Colorado Chapter of the AADOCR National Student Research Group (NSRG). The mission of the SRG is to provide dental students with exposure to research through discussion, direct participation and the presentation of research. 

The SRG holds monthly meetings that serve group members' interests and often include research presentations from CU faculty, visiting faculty and students currently working on research projects. The SRG strives to make students aware of research award opportunities as well as opportunities to attend research conferences. 

SRG participants are eligible to compete for awards at annual research competitions such as the School of Dental Medicine’s Research Day or the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Research Forum. Scholarships recognizing research engagement are available from the Colorado Chapter of the ARCS Foundation. At the national level, students are offered the opportunity to compete for the Hatton or SCADA Awards while participating in the annual meetings of the AADOCR/IADR as well as competitions held by the ADEA and others.

Although the School of Dental Medicine does not offer a Ph.D. in Craniofacial Biology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Boulder graduate students have an opportunity to be directly involved in oral health research by enrolling in one of the following Graduate Training Programs:

Students have the opportunity to elect and work with the School of Dental Medicine research faculty who are members of these training programs. The Research Faculty all have joint appointments in the School of Medicine and the Ph.D. degree will be awarded in the appropriate graduate training program.

The Department of Craniofacial Biology is developing a new program in Oral and Craniofacial Biology Research that will interface with existent graduate training programs and will provide comprehensive training multiple aspects of oral and craniofacial biology research.

Postdoctoral trainees can apply directly to work with individual Research Faculty members.

Predoctoral graduate training on the Anschutz Medical Campus is guided by the rules and regulations of the Graduate School. Graduate students interested in obtaining training in oral health research in areas of oral and craniofacial biology must apply to one of the following programs and then choose to work with one of our faculty members. Students may enter through the Biomedical Sciences Training Program and then transfer to the program of choice after the first year of training. The programs offer training in diverse subject areas including apoptosis, breast cancer, and mammary gland biology, cancer biology, cell biology, cell cycle/DNA replication/repair; developmental biology, gene expression, molecular basis of disease, neurobiology, signal transduction, salivary gland research, and stem cell biology.

Graduate Training Program on the University of Colorado Boulder campus

Students interested in Biomaterials and/or Bioengineering may also choose to obtain a Ph.D. degree through the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering or the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Colorado Boulder.


Providing new knowledge for the dental industry

The Department of Craniofacial Biology's goal is to help develop quality students into highly-skilled, interactive scientists and teachers who can successfully address the expanding oral health research needs in dental, oral, and craniofacial biology. Students are trained to think and approach research in a responsible, professional manner by providing a firm foundation in basic science knowledge, emphasizing critically evaluating and synthesizing their own data and primary research literature critically. The current basic science Ph.D. degree-granting programs that Craniofacial Biology participates in have a documented record of success given this philosophic approach to graduate education.

The Research Training Faculty members are active principal investigators on major NIH or equivalent peer-reviewed grants with stable funding patterns. They have major research interests in areas of oral, dental, and craniofacial research, and appointments in the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Graduate students are expected to fulfill the specific academic requirements at the CU Denver campus, CU Anschutz Medical campus, and CU Boulder campus graduate schools, complete required and approved elective courses, participate in laboratory rotations, seminar series, and journal clubs, demonstrate independence, responsible conduct, and critical thinking. Their Ph.D. thesis reflects the completion of a body of research that constitutes a significant contribution of new knowledge to the field of oral and craniofacial biology.

Postdoctoral trainees who are interested in further training in Craniofacial Biology may apply directly to participating faculty members.

    The Clinical and Public Health Research Initiative at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine is where clinicians and faculty researchers work collaboratively to improve the dental profession and serve the public in the translation of basic knowledge into new clinical therapies while supporting the evaluation of existing therapies in order to improve oral, dental and craniofacial health.

    Bruce Dye DDS, MPH
    Research interests: Oral health epidemiology, Public health practice

    Krithika Baskaran BDS, DDS

    Research interests: Restorative dental materials, Composite resins, Occlusion

    Sangeetha Chandrasekaran BDS, MS
    Research interests: Relationship between periodontitis and systemic diseases


    Sarah Dirks, DDS

    Research interests: Geriatrics, Community-based learning, Interprofessional collaboration, Special care dentistry 

    Tom Greany BS, DDS

    Research interests: Virtual learning systems, Health care administrative systems, Patient education systems, Big Data and epidemiology, Bioinformatics/predictive analytics


    Chaitanya Puranik BDS, MS, Ph.D.

    Research Interests: Pediatric dentistry, Craniofacial sciences, Restorative dental materials


    Tamanna Tiwari BDS, MDS, MPH
    Research interests: Oral health disparities and oral health care among older adults, Behavioral health, Early childhood caries, Community-based participatory research, Big Data, and Epidemiology

    Tamara Tobey DDS, MA
    Research interests: Community-based learning, Public health research, O
    ral health care for people living with HIV


    For additional information regarding the School of Dental Medicine's Public Health Initiative visit the Center for Oral Disease Prevention and Population Health Research (COPPR) page .

    Formal Programs:

    Informal Programs:

    Highly-motivated students are encouraged to contact faculty about their interests in pursuing biomedical/dental research. Although research with the dental school is not a means of getting into dental school, working in research is an opportunity to learn new skills and develop your critical thinking ability, which opens up avenues in all walks of life. Based on the project's specifics and skillsets, these positions can be for credit, unpaid volunteer positions, or paid research assistant positions.

    Potential Research Opportunities:

    Artinger LabMolecular and genetic mechanisms involved in the development of the neural crest and craniofacial structures.

    Carey Lab: Caries Prevention (fluoride and fluoride alternatives), Tooth Remineralization, Prevention of bacterial attachment, Mouth model systems to evaluate the efficacy of dental products.

    Clouthier Lab: Identifying novel genes and signaling pathways controlling normal facial development. Using RNA-sequencing and cellular and molecular techniques to find and understand the functional basis of mutations in humans results in craniofacial differences.

    Fantauzzo Lab: Investigating the mechanism and function of signaling through receptor tyrosine kinases in mammalian craniofacial development. Characterizing novel intracellular pathways and cellular processes engaged downstream of receptor tyrosine kinase induction provides new therapeutic directions for treating human craniofacial congenital disabilities such as cleft lip and palate.

    Heasley Lab: Investigates receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and protein kinase signaling networks in lung cancer, mesothelioma, and head and neck cancer. The lab also focuses on chemokine/cytokine-mediated paracrine signaling between tumor cells and stromal/immune cell components in the microenvironment that contribute to the overall therapeutic response oncogene-targeted drugs.

    Hu Lab: Investigates the role of transcription factors, epigenetic regulators, and chromatin structure on gene transcription and cellular phenotype in cancers and pulmonary diseases

    Li Lab: Researches the understanding of craniofacial development and Orofacial clefting at single-cell resolution, as well as alternative splicing programs during craniofacial development.

    Nair Lab: Develops stimuli-responsive ‘smart’ polymer networks, polymeric antibacterial coatings for dental materials, and nanogels for drug delivery.

    Nichols Lab: Understanding how genetics and epigenetics together orchestrate cell fate choices during animal development, specifically zebrafish craniofacial development

    Reyland Lab: Salivary gland biology and the development of new ways to protect oral tissues in patients undergoing irradiation therapy for head and neck cancer.

    Stansbury Lab: Design novel polymeric materials for dental and biomedical material applications, including distinctive photoinitiating systems and high-performance 3D printable materials.

    Williams Lab: Investigates transcriptional control of craniofacial

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