Summer / 2015                                        Office of Research

Dean Isabel Garcia

 Her vision for our college

The University of Florida College of Dentistry (UFCD) has a distinguished history of research and scholarly work. Even though success is not exclusively measured by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) rankings, by that benchmark UFCD’s research strength is clearly evident. The college now ranks 6th out of all U.S. dental schools with DDS/DMD programs in total of NIH/NIDCR funding support. 

We have unparalleled opportunities to strengthen UFCD’s research mission even more.  Currently, there are two active searches for research positions. The first is a faculty position focusing on cancer and related conditions to complement ongoing cancer research programs in the UF Health Cancer Center and the university. The second is a basic translational and/or clinician scientists in multiple research areas including host pathogen interactions, microbial pathogenesis, cell and molecular biology, autoimmunity, bone and mineralized tissue biology or pain.

Looking ahead, I think the college can play a greater role in accelerating the translation of science into practice, to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral and dental diseases and conditions. Supporting more clinical and translational research would also offer opportunities to create greater cross-talk and collaborations between clinicians, researchers and educators, and connect even more the three parts of UFCD’s mission - education, research and patient care. 

Finding time for very busy DMD students to engage in research is always a challenge given the demands of the predoctoral curriculum, but UFCD has been very successful in providing opportunities for students to be involved in research over the years and has a great track record of award-winning student research. As we continue to reshape and refine our DMD curriculum, opportunities should emerge to support more student research and scholarly activities.  


How the Office of Research is Preparing for CODA Accreditation

There are six CODA standards for pre-doctoral dental education programs.

Standard 1: Institutional Effectiveness

Standard 2: Educational Program

Standard 3: Faculty & Staff

Standard 4: Educational Support Services

Standard 5: Patient Care Services

Standard 6: Research Program 

The staff in the Office of Research provided essential data for the UFCD accreditation self study. The data included annual outcome measures, such as the number of faculty and student publications, contract and grant awards, student awards and honors, and NIH rankings. In addition, the Office of Research gathered numerous documents for the appendices, in order to showcase the college’s outstanding research activity. We are looking forward to the accreditation site visit from September 29-October 1, 2015.



 Blanka Sharma, Ph.D.  Assistant Professor, 

UF Department of Biomedical Engineering


Proposal title: Nanoparticle-mediated microRNA therapy for oral cancer.    

Dr. Edward Chan, a professor in the UF Department of Oral Biology, and and Dr. Blanka Sharma, an assistant professor in the UF Department of Biomedical Engineering, were awarded a UF Research Opportunity Seed Fund for their project titled “Nanoparticle-mediated microRNA therapy for oral cancer.” The goal of the project is to improve the treatment of oral cancer based on new microRNA (miRNA) biomarkers and nanoparticle technology. Oral cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with a five-year survival rate of 61 percent. MiRNAs are endogenous small non-coding RNAs that act as post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression in diverse cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation and development. When miR-21 is upregulated in oral cancer, it contributes to cancer cell proliferation and acts as a biomarker for poor patient survival. Treatment of the tumor with miR-21 inhibitor (anti-miRNA), is a promising approach; however, the delivery of these oligonucleotides to cancer cells has been a challenging task to date. Advances in nanoparticle-based delivery systems, which encapsulate cargos and promote intake by cancer cells, are potential enabling technologies for miRNA therapeutics.  This proposal takes advantage of the expertise of Dr. Chan (PI), in identifying overexpressed or underexpressed miRNA in oral cancer, and the strengths of Dr. Sharma (co-I), with expertise in applying nanoparticles for in vitro and in vivo gene delivery.

This is a reprint of an article published in the J.Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, dated May 2015.

Meet Sara Palmer - K99/R00 Recipient 


Dr. Sara Palmer has been a post doctoral associate in Dr. Robert Burne’s laboratory since July 2011. She was awarded a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from The National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research in September 2013. This award is designed to allow for transition from mentored postdoctoral research to a stable independent research position in a timely manner. This two-part award provides two years of mentored support ($216,000-K99), followed by three years of independent support upon receiving a tenure-track faculty position (R00), providing up to $249,000 of total costs per year.

Dr. Palmer’s research interests are in the area of bacterial pathogenesis and the applications of next-generation sequencing technologies to better understand the mechanisms of virulence factor regulation in streptococcal species within the oral cavity, with an emphasis on genes involved in secretion systems and membrane protein biogenesis. Her funded research, “The Genetics and Genomics of the yidC paralogs of Streptococcus mutans,” focuses on the regulation of two universally conserved membrane-integral chaperones, YidC1 and YidC2, which are critical to the virulence of the Gram-positive cariogenic pathogen Streptococcus mutans. A large component of her R00 will involve transcriptomic analysis of clinical isolates of S. mutans harboring mutations in the yidC genes using RNA deep-sequencing. Preliminary results indicate there may be important differences in the ability to tolerate yidC1 or yidC2 mutations between clinical isolates of S. mutans. This work will lead to critical new insights into the possible functions of these essential yidC paralogs and the role they play in stress adaptation of this important dental pathogen.


MarQuelle Rawls

Two new grant specialists, MarQuelle Rawls and Christina (Christi) Mason have joined the UFCD Office of Research.  Marquelle replaces Amanda O’Hara, who has relocated to Orlando. We wish Amanda and her family the best of luck!  

Marquelle has an extensive background in UF contract and grant accounting and administration.  She will work with Ronda Breton to provide financial management services to faculty with extramural awards. 

Christi is transferring from the Department of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery where she administered the department’s grants. In the Office of Research Christina will assist faculty in several departments with pre-award and proposal preparation and award administration. We welcome both Marquelle and Christi to our team. 


Christi Mason



UFCD Office of Research Guidelines for Proposal Submission to External and Internal Sponsors:  The following link provides guidance and resources for UFCD faculty submitting proposal applications to both external and internal sources: College Guidelines for Proposal Submission

UF Division of Research Program Development: new funding opportunities database (OppMan) for the UF community. This database will continue to serve as the central UF information source on limited submission opportunities and other key research-related announcements. Effective 03/11/15.

Office of Research Compliance Updates: Tissue Studies: Helpful link and diagram to use as a guide when PI’s or study staff want to be informed on how tissue is handled when coming in and/or out of UF.

NIH Reminders about Non-Compliant submissions (highlights include but are not limited to):

•  Applications containing one or more biosketches that do not conform to the required format may be withdrawn (NOT-OD-15-032).

• Applications that do not conform to the page limit requirements because inappropriate materials have been included in other parts of the application may be withdrawn (NOT-OD-11-080).

• Applications submitted as new but containing elements of a resubmission or renewal application are noncompliant with the resubmission policy and may be withdrawn (NOT-OD-15-059).

• Applications submitted after 5 PM local (applicant organization) time on the application due date may be withdrawn (NOT-OD-15-039).

• Please begin using UF’s FY16 proposed fringe benefit rates in all grant and contract proposal budgets. UFIRST and Cayuse 424 proposal budgeting tools have been updated with the FY16 proposed fringe rates and will automatically calculate the fringe benefit amount needed for each individual included in the budget. The employee categories and corresponding FY16 proposed benefit rates are as follows:

The FY16 proposed fringe rates are subject to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approval.  The approved FY16 fringe rates will be effective July 1, 2015.

 If you have any questions, you may contact DSP at