Arshi Munjal

Arshi Munjal, DDS student

Relates diet to oral microbiome

“She is a self-starter and phenomenal multi-tasker. Arshi is passionate about science, mentoring, and staying in academia.” – Sukirth Ganesan, assistant professor

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Faculty mentor/advisor:
Sukirth Ganesan BDS, PhD, assistant professor of periodontics, and Teresa Marshall, PhD, RDN/LDN, professor of preventive & community dentistry, College of Dentistry

What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date?
Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Spring 2024

Please describe your research:
My research focuses on investigating the impact of diet on the oral microbiome, a complex ecosystem that plays a crucial role in overall oral health. The primary aim of my research is to compare microbial composition and co-occurrence patterns in different areas of the oral cavity and evaluate how they vary in individuals who follow plant-based vs. meat-based diets. Our lab uses techniques in metagenomics, next-generation sequencing, and bioinformatics to comprehensively analyze microbial communities in the oral cavities of participants from both dietary groups.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?
While considerable progress has been achieved in exploring the impact of diet on the gut microbiome, there is limited understanding as to how dietary choices impact the balance of microorganisms in the oral cavity. Better understanding of the influence of diet on the oral microbiome can aid in evaluating potential consequences on dental and perioral diseases. By uncovering the nuances of oral microbial composition, clinicians can potentially develop dietary recommendations that promote a healthier oral environment and, by extension, improve overall well-being. This information could help inform not only individuals making dietary choices, but also healthcare professionals in designing personalized dietary plans to support oral health.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research?
I began research during the first semester of college and have continued ever since!

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa?
Research has allowed me to approach my future career as a dentist with a new lens, forcing me to engage with my clinical work on a molecular level. Being actively engaged in research has exposed me to collaborative teamwork and instilled in me the power of curiosity. My enthusiasm for academia has grown and I now have a more granular understanding of the importance of being an evidence-based practitioner.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?
My goal as a future academic dentist is to integrate my clinical passions with my research and educational pursuits. I aspire to serve as a clinician-scientist bridging the gap between clinical practice and research.

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