• What is your degree program and expected graduation date? Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) Program, 2020
• Please describe your research: I sequence specific genes in African and Philippine populations looking for genetic variants that contribute to orofacial clefting. We are looking for the genetic reasons individuals develop cleft lips and cleft palates.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Traditionally, the only way of treating orofacial clefts is with surgery, which is difficult in the U.S.A., and significantly more difficult in countries with less developed healthcare systems. If we can discover what is causing the orofacial clefts, we can take steps to prevent them from happenings in the first place.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I arrived at here in the Fall of 2016, and I began research in the Spring of 2017.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? I got work with a research team of very intelligent people working together to try and answer a difficult question. As I continued my studies, I could apply the same pattern of critical thinking and understanding. Working as a member of Dr. Butali’s lab has taught me how to ask the right questions, and how I can go about answering them.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After graduation, I’ll begin my career as a dentist, hopefully in the state of Iowa. I grew up in Iowa, went to public school in Iowa. I went to a state school in Iowa for my undergraduate degree, and now I’m here for my graduate degree. I am very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to attend these institutions so close to home.
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Azeez Butali
• Hometown: Bettendorf, IA
Banner location: University Capitol Centre—