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Researcher Wins Prestigious Thesis Award

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Written by Adam Zewe

Assistant Professor Mary Anne Melo, DDS, MSc, PhD, has been recognized for producing the best dental thesis in the nation of Brazil. Dr. Melo, a native of Brazil who joined the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) faculty in April, is a researcher in the Department of Endodontics, Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry. She is collaborating with Professor Haukun Xu, PhD, MS, director of biomaterials and tissue engineering, on the development of a dental restoration material that kills bacteria and strengthens teeth.

The Coordination for Improvement of Higher Level Personnel (CAPES), a branch of Brazil's Ministry of Education, selected Melo's thesis due to its originality and scientific quality. Her thesis, a compilation of papers she contributed to at UMSOD and the Federal University of Ceara in Brazil, examines the anti-caries effects of dental restoration materials that incorporate nanotechnology. Melo will receive the CAPES thesis award from Brazil's minister of education during a ceremony in Brasilia, Brazil's capital, on Dec. 9. "I am honored to win this award. This is a great moment for me, my host institution in Brazil and Dr. Xu's team. This award confirms the importance of our international collaboration," she remarks.

Melo began working on her PhD in 2009 at the Federal University of Ceara. She focused her research on the bioactive properties of commercially available dental materials. In 2011, Melo earned a Fulbright Scholarship and joined Xu's lab for a nine-month research fellowship. During the fellowship, she studied the bonding agents that attach dental materials to teeth. She applied her research to the experimental dental restoration materials being developed at UMSOD. "The bonding interface is a critical area. Secondary caries often develop around the restoration because the bacteria can infiltrate between the restoration material and the tooth," states Melo.

"We are now facing the most critical step in our research: the translational step. We must take what we have performed in the lab and apply it in a clinical setting," Melo concludes.

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