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UFCD Comprehensive Training Program in Oral Biology


National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA)
National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Award # T90DE021990/R90DE022530

oral-biologypicIn response to a request from the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research to provide Institutional Training for a Dental and Craniofacial Workforce, the University of Florida College of Dentistry has developed a Comprehensive Training Program in Oral Biology. This training grant is one of 15 awarded by NIDCR to US academic institutions (list of national participants). The UFCD program builds on over 25 years of successful training of basic and clinician scientists in oral health research.

Using the extensive educational, scientific and clinical resources at the University, a comprehensive series of pre and post-doctoral training opportunities in research areas are provided, directly related to oral health and diseases. These programs produce highly skilled and interactive scientists prepared to generate new knowledge and translate their discoveries to advances in the detection, prevention, treatment and cure of diseases and abnormalities of the oral and craniofacial complex.

Programs of Study

The scientific areas encompassed in this Comprehensive Training Program in Oral Biology include: Oral Infectious Diseases, Oral:Systemic Health Connections, Autoimmunity, Bone Biology, Gene Therapy and Stem Cell Biology, Oral Cancers, Salivary Gland Biology, and Pain. A team of experienced and well-funded basic and clinical researchers has been assembled to provide an extensive set of training experiences in the biomedical sciences, directly relevant to oral health and diseases.

Established and time-tested interdisciplinary research training programs in the UF College of Dentistry and Medicine are utilized with particular emphasis on the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences (IDP), and clinical research training programs supported by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

Training Opportunities


  • DMD-PhD dual-degree program: Individuals in this track will complete 3 years of dental school, then complete PhD training and the requirements of their 4th year of dental training during years 4 through 7. Options for a training focus in clinical investigation are also available for dual-degree candidates through the IDP and CTSI programs.
  • PhD training for BS/BA or MS holders: Individuals in this track will pursue the PhD degree in the IDP program in an “advanced concentration” with the option of augmenting their training with formal course work and a certificate in clinical investigation through the CTSI.


  • DMD(DDS)-trained, degree-seeking:  Individuals in this track will pursue PhD training in the IDP with the option of earning a certificate in an advanced dental specialty in Periodontology, Orthodontics, Endodontics or Pediatric Dentistry. Alternatively, individuals in this track will hold a DMD/DDS and receive training to the MS level in clinical investigation through the CTSI curriculum.
  • PhD-trained, non-degree seeking:  Individuals in this track will pursue traditional intensive post-doctoral training and have the option of augmenting their training with course work in clinical investigation
  • DMD (DDS)-PhD non-degree seeking:  Individuals in this track will be supported by the R90 component and pursue intensive post-doctoral training with the option of augmenting their skillset with course work in clinical investigation. 

Program Administrationadministration

Program Director
Associate Dean for Research & Distinguished Professor & Chair, Department of Oral Biology
Associate Director
Professor & Director of Graduate & Post-Doctoral Research Training & Career Development
UFCD Department of Oral Biology Denise Dorman, Administrative Services Coordinator II
DMD Student Liaison Denise Webb, Office of Research
 Internal Advisory Committee
External Advisory Committee
Professor & Director
University of Florida Genetics Institute

Dr. Isabel Garcia, DMD, MPH
University of Florida College of Dentistry

Dr. David Nelson, MD
Professor & Director
UF Clinical & Translational Science Institute

Pruitt Family Professor & Chair
UF Department of Biomedical Engineering
Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, Professor, Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Director, Center for Wound Healing & Tissue Regeneration
University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry

Dr. Peter Polverini, DMD, PhD,
Professor & Dean Emeritus
University of Michigan, School of Dentistry



mentorTraining Grant Mentors

Name / Degree(s)      College – Department                         Primary & Secondary                              Research Interest
Dr. Jacqueline Abranches, PhD
Assistant Professor
DN – Oral Biology Microbe-host interactions with a particular focus in colonization of and persistence within host tissues, and disease.
Dr. Jeannine Brady, PhD
DN – Oral Biology Host: pathogen interactions, bacterial adhesion, immunomodulation
Distinguished Professor Department Chair & Associate Dean for Research
DN – Oral Biology Genetics, Physiology and Pathogenesis of Oral Biofilm Bacteria
Dr. Seunghee Cha, DDS, PhD
Associate Professor
DN – Oral Max & Diag Sciences &  Oral Biology Target tissue specificity in Sjögren’s syndrome, epigenetic regulation of autoimmunity, Sjögren’s autoantibodies
Dr. Edward Chan, PhD Professor
DN – Oral Biology
MD – Anatomy & Cell Biology
MicroRNA in cell biology, autoimmunity and oral cancer
Dr. David Culp, PhD
DN – Oral Biology Salivary constituents: Gene regulation, regulation of secretion and their roles in protecting the oral cavity. Animal models of oral disease.
Dr. Mary Ellen Davey, PhD
Associate Professor
DN – Oral Biology Microbial genetics, polymicrobial biofilm-based infections, and interspecies signaling within microbial communities
Dr. Gill Diamond, PhD Professor
DN – Oral Biology Antimcirobial peptides and innate immunity against microbial infections
Dr. Roger Fillingim, PhD
Distinguished Professor
DN – Community Dentistry & Behavioral Science Individual differences in pain; pain genetics; neurobiology of orofacial pain.
Dr. Charles Frazier, PhD
Associate Professor
PHAR – Pharmacodynamics
MD – Neuroscience
Cellular and synaptic physiology in health and disease
Dr. Frank Gibson III, PhD
Associate Professor
DN – Oral Biology Bacterial-host interaction, innate immunity and chronic inflammation in periodontal disease, oral infection linkage to systemic diseases
Professor & Associate Chair
CLAS & SCI – Physics Study of quorum sensing in bacteria, and especially noise and heterogeneity in quorum sensing systems
Dr. Lexie Shannon Holliday, PhD
Associate Professor
DN – Orthodontics
MD Anatomy/Cell Biology – COM
Bone physiology and pathophysiology
Dr. Gregory Hudalla, PhD
Assistant Professor
ENG – Biomedical Engineering Synthetic materials that can harness, recapitulate, or interfere with natural biomolecular interactions to reverse, suppress, or prevent various pathological processes, such as metastasis, autoimmunity, and viral infection
Dr. Lakshmyya Kesavalu, PhD
Associate Professor
DN – Periodontology &  Oral Biology Role of major Periodontal Pathogens in the initiation of infection, inflammation, immunity, gene expression, alveolar bone resorption and progression of periodontal disease
Dr. José Lemos, PhD
Associate Professor
DN – Oral Biology Metobolomics
Dr. Kevin McHugh, PhD
Associate Professor
DN – Periodontology Expression and function of integrin adhesion molecules in osteoclasts, osteoclast gene transcription and in bone matrix regulation of osteoclast gene expression
Dr. Ann Progulske-Fox, PhD
Professor & Program Director
DN – Oral Biology Interactions between oral pathogens and human endothelial cells; Oral:systemic health
Dr. Luciana Shaddox, PhD
Associate Professor
DN – Periodontology & Oral Biology Clinical and basic studies on the inflammatory response and the oral microbiota in aggressive periodontitis in children
Dr. Blanka Sharma, PhD
Assistant Professor
ENG – Biomedical Engineering Translation of biomaterial-guided cartilage repair, engineering of structurally organized cartilage and osteochondral tissues, and tumor targeting of NPs for gene therapy
Associate Professor
DN – Oral Biology Immunological mechanisms associated with type 1 (T1D) and 2 (T2D) diabetes; diabetes and oral health; autoimmunity
Dr. Lizi Wu, PhD
Assistant Professor
MD – Molecular Genetics & Microbiology Identification and functional characterization of a family of MAML transcriptional co-activators and targeting of CRTC1-MAML2 fusion oncogene; Deregulated LKB1-CRTC1 signaling in human cancers


Active Students & Degree(s)  Project
T90 Pre-Doctoral Fellows  
 David Brice – B.S.
University of Central Florida
 Vitamin D’s role in the antiviral response of oral keratinocytes
 Salvatore Calise – B.S.
University of Florida
 Characterizing the biological function and structure of IMPDH filaments in mammalian systems
 Gavin Golas – B.S.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
 Viral insults to the small intestine are not dealt with properly in type 1 diabetes
 Kyulim Lee –  B.S.
University of Florida
 4th Year Dental Student N/A
 Mahmoud Mona – B.S.
University of Florida
 4th Year Dental Student N/A
Danielle Vermilyea – B.S.
University of South Florida
Molecular mechanisms involved in L-arginine signaling in Porphyromonas gingivalis
 T90 Post-Doctoral Fellows
Dr. Alejandro Aviles-Reyes – Ph.D.
University of Rochester
Characterization of the collagen binding protein of Streptococcus mutans Cnm
Dr. Justin Kaspar – Ph.D.
University of Florida
Mechanisms of translational control in Streptococcus mutans
Dr. Zachary Moye – Ph.D.
University of Florida
Response of Porphyromonas gingivalis to environmental carbohydrates
Dr. A. Gauna-Williams –  Ph.D.
University of Florida
Contribution of the Innate Immune System and microRNA to Sjögren’s Syndrome Pathogenesis
R90 Post-Doctoral Associate
Dr. Fernanda Godoy Rocha –  DDS, PhD
Faculdade de Odontologia
 Oral epithelial cell control of immune plasticity in periodontal disease