A wood frog lies within a wintry forest in Ohio. The frog's body is frozen solid. It doesn't move a muscle for months at a time and would appear dead to the naked eye. Spring's rays reach the frog and the ice begins to melt away. The frog eventually thaws, hops away and joins the rest of Ohio's forest creatures just in time for mating season.
This may sound like science fiction, but many animals, including the wood frog (Rana sylvatica), undergo this otherworldly process every year. I spent three years during my undergraduate education at Miami University studying insects, reptiles and amphibians and why certain species are able to withstand such harsh conditions. The processes their bodies undergo to protect against usually lethal situations could one day help us preserve donated organs for longer periods and save countless human lives.
During my freshman year at Miami University, I approached my biology professor and told him that I wanted to apply for dental school, but was also interested in scientific laboratory research. He introduced me to Dr. Richard Lee and his incredible Laboratory for Ecophysiological Cryobiology. I progressed through the lab, from washing glassware to raising fruit fly "farms", to running my own cryobiology experiments on fruit flies. I eventually presented the results of my research at an international science meeting and was second author on a paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
A large part of scientific research is reviewing hundreds (and hundreds) of research articles. This experience helps me when reviewing dental publications and the latest advancements in our ever-evolving field.
The critical thinking involved in complex biological research challenged me in a different way during an eight-year academic career that could often be summarized as memorization and test-taking skills.
Most importantly, the problem-solving abilities needed during laboratory research come in handy with nearly every patient I treat. Dentistry involves much more problem solving than it does lecturing about brushing and flossing. I am grateful for the unique challenges that I encountered during my research and how advancing my problem solving skills contributes to procedures I perform as a dentist everyday.
Although I continued towards my ultimate goal of becoming a dentist, I was incredibly proud of the hard work that I contributed towards Dr. Lee's lab. The skills gained during my years of research helped make me a better dentist today.
Cheers to dental health,
Dr. Cliff Moore