Career Profile: Dentist - Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque
Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque, D.D.S., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Dental Ecology, School of Dentistry, University of North Carolina
National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education
I chose this career because…
I chose to become a dentist because it was the career that best combined all my skills and interests. My interest in health science was evident since high school, when I wrote an essay about wanting to be a doctor. Then I read The Unkindest Cut: Life in the Backrooms of Medicine, by Marcia Millman, and decided to consider alternatives within the field. While an undergraduate, I explored one option by taking a 6-week course for students who wanted to pursue dentistry at the University of Maryland and by working as a dental assistant for a local dentist in Buffalo.
I thought dentistry would bring all my skills and interests together:
• Have good manual dexterity with hands (“I’m good with my hands.”)
• Am interested in science
• Like working with people
• Enjoy artistic expression
• Am inquisitive
I applied to the Dental School at the University of Buffalo in New York, and was accepted.
Education and Experience
• Undergraduate double major: Biology and Interdisciplinary Social Science, B.A. State University of New York at Buffalo
• Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Dental School, State University of New York at Buffalo
• Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
• Postdoctoral Fellowship, Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
More on Dentistry
Median Salary: $136,960
Min. Education: Doctorate
Related Careers: Dental Hygienist, Dental Laboratory Technician
My typical workday involves…
My typical day is different depending on whether I’m in the clinic or the lab. I’m usually in the clinic 1 to 1.5 days a week. The rest of the week, I’m in the lab.
• 7:45 to 10:00 a.m. – Work with residents reviewing cases and clinical rounds. This is when we review each patient’s progress and make decisions about their oral care and the dental work that they are going to receive.
• 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. – Attend oral biology seminars given by medical students and residents about their research.
• 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. – See patients for general dentistry in the dental faculty private practice.
During lab days, I may do any combination of the following:
• Read and review the scientific literature
• Meet with, supervise, and assist students, technical people, and postdoctoral fellows
• Perform my own experiments
• Analyze research data
• Write about and format my research results for publication or grant applications
• Attend meetings of laboratory personnel
• Attend seminars and campus-wide meeting of virologists
• Teach oral medicine or microbiology lectures to dental and graduate students
• Review research publications and grants submitted by other researchers
• Discuss science and research topics with colleagues
What I like best and least about my work is…
What I like best about my work is the ability to observe something in the clinic that raises a scientific question, and then to try to answer that question in the laboratory. I also enjoy the diversity in my career – working with patients, teaching, and research.
What I like least about my work is the time constraints. There is never enough time to accomplish everything that I’d like to accomplish.
My career goals are…
My goal is to make a contribution to our knowledge base. I’d like to add some of the missing pieces to the puzzle of infection and disease by understanding of the role of viral infection as it relates to oral infection and clinical disease.
Equipment I use in the Laboratory
• Confocal microscope – Uses a laser and mirrors to scan multiple layers of fluorescent dye-labeled samples.
• Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine – Regulates cycles of time and temperature for enzymatic reactions that amplify DNA.
• Electrophoresis apparatus – Runs gels containing DNA, RNA, or protein.
• Microarray scanner – Helps with visualizing gene-expression experiments.