By Kurtis Chien-Young
Logan Zhang is junior pursuing a Psychology major at Tufts University. This past summer, he researched the association between periodontal disease and chronic kidney disease at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. You can read about his research here: http://www.marshfieldresearch.org/srip/2018-internship-project-abstract-logan-zhang
1. First off, how did you get involved with the Marshfield Clinic? Did you get involved through the Tufts Career Center, or did you reach out to the clinic on your own?
I reached out on my own; I was researching online for internship opportunities related to dentistry and oral health, and this opportunity turned up. I feel like Tufts' career center and pre-health organizations don't provide enough opportunities for pre-dental students.
2. Can you tell me about the research project you worked on through your summer internship?
Marshfield Clinic is one of few healthcare organizations that utilizes combined medical and dental patient data. So using these data, I investigated the association between an oral condition, periodontal disease, and a systemic condition, chronic kidney disease. Among other analyses, I investigated severity of periodontal disease as compared to markers of kidney function over time, and discovered a potential trend relating decline of kidney function to episodes of severe periodontal disease. I'd like to thank my mentor, Dr. Ingrid Glurich, for helping me to understand it's important to consider the mouth as part of the body too, and understand that oral conditions can contribute to systemic conditions!
3. What kind of problems did you face when conducting your research? How did you overcome the obstacles?
When working on a case-control study like I did, it was incredibly difficult to find the correct control population to match my cases. There are just so many potential confounding variables in science, especially in retrospective studies like mine, that finding appropriate controls is a monumental task. We tried our best to control for as many variables as possible: age, gender, number of teeth, etc. But even so, it was difficult if not impossible to isolate a confident causal link from this dataset.
4. How do you think your experience with the Marshfield Clinic has affected your long-term career goals?
I got to work and be intimately involved with really great research relevant to the field of dentistry. I met and worked with a lot of dentists, and I was exposed more to the research side of dentistry. Overall, it really opened my eyes to another side of my career that I hadn't considered before.
5. Do you have any advice for other undergraduates looking to get into the research fields you’ve worked in?
Expand your search to wherever you can -- don't just look for local opportunities. Research in oral health is out there, but it's not nearly as universal as research in medicine. Also, look into the Marshfield Clinic Summer Internship!
If you would like to have your own research featured on the TuftScope blog, you can reach Kurtis at email@example.com