Developing an understanding of oral microbiology, genetics and cell biology

Dental School building
Mary Connolly
Undergraduate Student
Intercalated BMedSci Degree
Project title: The role of outer membrane protein A in porphyromonas gingivalis biofilm formation and host cell interaction

When did I do my BMedSci

I was the first for many years to undertake a BMedSci degree as a Sheffield BDS student between third and fourth BDS years (in July 2009 - July 2010).

My project

My project was an oral microbiology research project on the ‘role of outer membrane protein A in porphyromonas gingivalis biofilm formation and host cell interaction’ with supervisors Dr G.Stafford and Prof. I. Douglas. I dedicated my year to investigating the role of a major outer membrane protein (also found on the E.coli bacterium) on this key periodontal pathogen, and how it affects its ability to form biofilms and adhere to host cells in periodontal pathogenesis. My biggest achievement was the creation of an anaerobic P.gingivalis mutant, which took a great deal of time and hard work.


I have presented at several national conferences as an oral presentation entrant, which include:
- British Society of Dental Research in Sheffield, Sept. 2011 (where I presented twice).
- BDA/Dentsply Student Clinician Awards in Enniskerry, Republic of Ireland, Feb. 2011.
- National Intercalator’s Conference in Bristol, Sept. 2010 (where I was the first dental student to present).
I also presented my findings locally at the microbiology journal club run by the department and at the Friday seminar session held in the School of Clinical Dentistry, during the year 2010.

Since completing my own project, my work has been continued and additionally presented as a poster by current University of Sheffield PhD student, Kate Naylor at:
- European Association of Microbiology 2014 workshop, Aarhus, June. 2014.
- British Society of Dental Research in Bath, Sept. 2013.
(Kate also presented recently using some of the ‘ground work’ from my original project, at the Oral Microbiology and Immunology group Amsterdam, Feb. 2015).

Honours or prizes

I achieved a 2:1 degree with honours and I was selected to represent the University of Sheffield at many prestigious conferences and the BDA/Dentsply Student Clinician Awards in 2011.

What I gained from my BMedSci

Taking a year out of my dental studies to undertake a year in research was a tough decision, but I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking at the prospect of an academic/ hospital career pathway. I gained an appreciation for the research that goes into developing a greater understanding of the main dental diseases for clinicians. From my own research I have a better understanding of oral microbiology, genetics and cell biology, as well as different types of research and techniques.

Undoubtedly I feel I gained a great deal from my BMedSci, which is regularly asked about at recent job interviews. Since graduating I have successfully secured hospital training placements including recently Paediatric DCT at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, with a view to looking at specialist training in the future.

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