This summer I conducted research on the role of the TRPS1 gene on mineralization of dental tissues. During the beginning of this study, I believed it would be a straight path: I would have one question with one previously selected type of data that would lead me to the answer. Namely, in this study, I would gather quantitative data on the mineral densities of these tissues in order to make my conclusions. That would be it. However, I realized that research builds upon itself and is a continuous task. The same question can be answered through various types of data and data collection. Then, these findings can lead to new questions. Research seems to simply continue because there is so much knowledge waiting to be understood.
For example, during my project, I used micro-CT technology to gather quantitative data on mineral density, volume, and thickness measurements. However, later on, I learned that this method of data collection also provides the ability to display data in a qualitative, visual approach as well. I was able to build 3D representation of teeth and even make a color map of the distributions of tissue thickness throughout the tooth. Through this initially unplanned data, we were able to make visual discoveries about other areas that bring rise to new questions (possible new projects!).
The Brackenridge Fellowship has been a truly enriching experience and has greatly supplemented my research project. I have been inspired by projects vastly different from my own and learned about new types of data collection. However, the skill of proper communication across individuals both within and outside of my discipline is the most valuable takeaway I have learned from the Brackenridge program. This would be my most valuable takeaway because I believe when research is not properly communicated to others it loses power. It loses its ability to reach people, be used, and essentially make a difference. Therefore, learning effective communication by constantly explaining my project to other members in the cohort was a lesson I am grateful for.
Even though the Brackenridge program is coming to a close, I still intend to continue work on my project. I will be analyzing more mice in order to increase the sample size, as well as learning different techniques, such as micro indentation, to produce more data for the research question. In my future career as a dentist, I believe the skills and knowledge gained from the Brackenridge Fellowship and this research project will help me communicate with my patients and effectively treat them.
The Brackenridge program has been an invaluable experience, and I look forward to seeing what my fellow researchers in the cohort pursue in the future!