UFCD’s 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

The college has been recognized with ADEA’s Gies Award  (visit link) for its Comprehensive Training Program in Oral Biology. This award is for the commitment to outstanding research and the College’s training environment. 


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 Colleges 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 three years of dental school, then complete PhD training and the requirements of their 4th year of dental training during years four through seven. 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 Administration


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

College/Department                         Primary & Secondary 
Research Interest
Dr. Jacqueline Abranches, 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, Professor DN – Oral Biology Host: pathogen interactions, bacterial adhesion, immunomodulation
Dr. Robert Burne, Distinguished Professor Department Chair, Assoc Dean for Research DN – Oral Biology Genetics, physiology and pathogenesis of oral biofilm bacteria
Dr. Seunghee Cha,    Associate Professor DN – Oral Max & Diagnostic Sciences & Oral Biology Target tissue specificity in Sjögren’s syndrome, epigenetic regulation of autoimmunity, Sjögren’s autoantibodies
Dr. Edward Chan,      Professor DN – Oral Biology                         MD – Anatomy & Cell Biology MicroRNA in cell biology, autoimmunity and oral cancer
Dr. David Culp, PhD,  Professor 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, Distinguished Professor DN – Community Dentistry & Behavioral Science Individual differences in pain; pain genetics; neurobiology of orofacial pain.
Dr. Charles Frazier,   Associate Professor PHAR – Pharmacodynamics        MD – Neuroscience Cellular and synaptic physiology in health and disease
Dr. Frank Gibson III,  Associate Professor DN – Oral Biology Bacterial-host interaction, innate immunity and chronic inflammation in periodontal disease, oral infection linkage to systemic diseases
Dr. Stephen Hagen,  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, PhDAssociate Professor DN – OrthodonticsMD Anatomy/Cell Biology – COM Bone physiology and pathophysiology
Dr. Gregory Hudalla,   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, 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,          Associate Professor DN – Oral Biology Metobolomics
Dr. Kevin McHugh,     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, Professor & Program Director DN – Oral Biology Interactions between oral pathogens and human endothelial cells; Oral:systemic health
Dr. Luciana Shaddox, 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,    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
Dr. Lizi Wu,                 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
Dr. Zsolt Toth,              Assistant Professor DN – Oral Biology Host-pathogen interaction, regulation of immune response against viral infection, epigenetic control of viral infections, mechanisms of viral oncogenesis
Dr. Jorge Frias-Lopez DN-Oral Biology Gene expression of the human microbiome in health and disease; how human microbial communities are structured; the role of keystone species of stability; the oral microbiome and cancer



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
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
Seung Jin (James) Jang – B.S.
University of Florida
 1st Year Dental Student
Natalie Atyeo – B.A.
Duke University
 2nd Year Dental Student
 T90 Post-Doctoral Fellows
Dr. Yuk Pheel Park
Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology
Preclinical Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T therapy for Head and Neck/Oral Cancer
Dr. Justin Kaspar
University of Florida
Mechanisms of translational control in Streptococcus mutans
Dr. Natalie Maricic                    University of Michigan
Using a genetic and proteomic approach to identify novel regulators of genetic competence in Streptococcus mutans
R90 Post-Doctoral Associate
Dr. Fernanda Godoy Rocha
Faculdade de Odontologia
 Oral epithelial cell control of immune plasticity in periodontal disease
 F31 Pre-doctoral Fellow
Danielle Vermilyea – B.S.          University of South Florida
Molecular mechanisms involved in L-arginine signaling in Porphyromonas gingivalis