Student Researcher Interview with Dhaval Shah

Interviewer: Benjamin Kerner

Interviewed: Dhaval Shah

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B: Alright so first question, what is your name, major and what department of research do you work out of?

D: Dhaval Shah, and Psychology with a Biology minor, and I work in the Periodontal department at the dental school of… It’s like a long name for the lab, but I won’t go into that.  Essentially a regeneration lab.

B: Well you pretty much answered this already but what research lab are you a part of?

D: It’s called the Periodontal Regeneration Lab, basically most of the goals of the lab is to grow bone so what we do is, we take GMSCs, which are Gingival Mesenchymal Stem Cells, and use those stem cells to differentiate into Osteoblasts. The main goal is when you have an implant, and the implant fails, what happens is you lose a lot of bone and so we want to regenerate that bone.  That’s the main goal of the whole lab. So, there is different things that they do in regards to that. That’s the cool part.

B: I see, so how did you get into research and what inspired you to do so?

D: Well I did research in high school, very minimal research, but I did do research in high school, and then I was also required to do research for my program so that was another thing.  But, the PI [Principal Investigator] that I worked for, he actually interviewed me when I was getting into the Scholars for Dental Program and so I already had a connection with them from the beginning.  So, I just talked to him and then he said ‘yeah, come by’ and then I started working there after that. It was cool.

B: So, do you have any publications that you’re attributed to or posters?

D: No, I wish.  We’ve been working on stuff.  Me and this other student I work with actually just wrote a review paper for GMSC so basically like characterization of GMSCs and how you can differentiate them and stuff like that.  A bunch of qualities about GMSCs, so we wrote a review paper, but the PI hasn’t looked at it yet since November so… I don’t know where it’s ever going to go. So yeah, we have been working on stuff but he’s a very busy guy and we don’t have a PhD student or a grad student so it’s literally him and then us. So, it’s hard to get stuff done, but we’re working at it.  

B: Welp you’ve already answered what your lab studies specifically so…

D: Yeah, we’ve done a couple of cool experiments.  I didn’t really get to work on the regeneration one because when I started working. One of the biggest projects we worked on was something with Invisalign, so with Invisalign we were trying to see if it generated a lot of bacteria by wearing those liners every day, and so that was one of the main experiments that I worked on with one of the Orthodontics residents.  So yeah, what I basically did was protein extraction and ran analyses, which was my biggest thing. It was cool. It was a nice time. I’m probably going to be writing my thesis on that too.

B: Cool, so what is your favorite part about doing research?

D: Research is really time consuming, that’s one of the biggest things, but even then though when you do research and you actually see results, that’s the best part.  So, it is really hard to find results in research, you don’t see it right away, and it takes time but when you put in all that time and effort, and then you finally see something, that’s the best part.  

B: So, is there anything about your specific lab that is your favorite thing that you do not think other labs necessarily do?

D: The biggest thing is that the people that work in my lab, they work very hard.  The Periodontal department at Stony Brook is probably one of the best departments in the dental school.  That’s because the head of the Periodontal department and all of the people that work in it, I literally see them until like 8pm every day.  They will be the last ones there in the whole school, so they’re very dedicated people and they work very hard. My PI himself works very hard, he’s there from the morning until late at night, all the time.  That’s the cool part about it too.

B:  So then, will research fit into your inevitable career goal?

D: It’s a possibility.  It all depends. I do want to become a dentist, so I will be starting dental school this upcoming fall.  But, it all depends, it depends what I do in the future, if I work in a university setting where you work as like a clinician, you teach and do research then that’s one of those things.  But, if you’re just working at a private practice or something like that, then research is not really that big of a thing, so as of right now I have no idea what I’m going to be doing, but it is definitely an opportunity out there that can be done.  

B: Cool, so lastly, do you have any advice for undergraduates looking to get into research or looking to get more out of their current research experience?

D: Don’t stop trying, that’s the hardest part.  Getting a PI to work with is probably the hardest part so keep trying, keep emailing, go personally to talk to PIs, that’s the only way you’ll get around.  One email is not going to do it. It’s going to be multiple emails, multiple phone calls, you’re going to have to go in and visit, and talk to them and that is the only way.  It’s a time commitment obviously so make sure that you have some time for it.

B: Alright well thank you very much for your time! I hope that wasn’t too bad.

D: Not at all, happy to do it!


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