The student research program provides an opportunity for dental students to become involved in research during the academic year as well as in the summer inter-session period. Participation in research encourages critical review and analysis of scientific design—skills crucial to the development of clinical competence in the processes of patient diagnosis and treatment evaluation. Such experiences also provide the student with insight into additional career alternatives in dentistry. This opportunity has led a number of participants to pursue careers in academic dentistry on a full- or part-time basis.
In addition, the research experience allows students to interact and work with faculty under more informal circumstances. Other benefits include publication of research in scientific literature, as well as travel for presentation of data at national and international meetings. Recently, several participants in the student research program presented research projects at the International Association for Dental Research in Acapulco, Boston, and Chicago; future meeting sites include Seattle and Orlando.
Many students work with a single faculty member on research in a specific area that extends over three or four years of their dental school experience. By compiling the results of completed research into a thesis and presenting the results of their efforts to the members of the Student Research and Honors Committee, students may graduate with thesis honors—a designation noted on the diploma.
Approximately forty faculty members participate in the student research program. Their research interests include all area of the basic sciences and dental clinical sciences. Students are encouraged to contact these faculty members to pursue specific projects.
Attempts are made to subsidize participants whenever possible. A number of sources provide stipends for summer research students. The School of Dental Medicine has a grant from the National Institute of Dental Research to fund six summer fellows, and additional awards are also made available by the American Association for Dental Research, on a competitive basis. Other sources include Dental and Medical School Cancer Research Programs (CACS fellowships and NCI awards), as well as stipends for research in periodontology and fixed prosthodontics.
While there is no requirement for students to become involved in research while completing the requirements for the DDS program, they are encouraged to do so. This experience adds an extra dimension to their education. The University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine is a world center for dental research. Students who take advantage of this opportunity become far more knowledgeable of their profession regardless of whether or not they choose a career in dental research.