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  1. Jacki Mays (right) with Associate Dean of Research Dr. John Sheridan, after winning the 1st place Ph.D./Resident Award at this year's Research Day.

Dentistry Student Joins Research Team at National Institutes of Health

December, 2008

When Jacki (Wiesehan) Mays arrived at the College of Dentistry in 2002, she was looking forward to a challenging D.D.S. program that would move her on to the next phase of her career as a dental professional. While preparing to work on one advanced degree, she could never have anticipated being recruited into a dual Ph.D. and D.D.S. program that would lead to a job working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on a team with two of the most renowned immunologists in the nation.

“I’m passionate about science,” Mays says, “and I fell in love with research after I began working on an immunology and T-cell project when I was an undergraduate at Valparaiso University.”

As a chemistry and biology major at Valparaiso, Mays received an education that prepared her well for the immunology research that has become her vocation. Shortly after she entered the D.D.S. program here at Ohio State, Dr. John Sheridan, Associate Dean of Research and professor of oral biology, suggested that she pursue combined Ph.D. and D.D.S. degrees as part of the College’s Comprehensive Training in Oral and Craniofacial Sciences (CTOC) program.

“Jacki’s talents were evident very early on,” Sheridan says, “so I recruited her to join this program, knowing she had what it takes to complete both the Ph.D. in oral biology and the doctor of dental surgery degrees.”

The decision to embark on two professional degrees simultaneously meant a seven-year commitment to a graduate program, as well as a course of study that has included cutting-edge research. And although Mays admits this program has been challenging, she says it’s been worth the effort in every respect.

“My experience here at Ohio State has been absolutely fantastic. I love what I’m doing, and these combined degrees will let me do what I want to do with my life and my career.”

In preparation for the research career she’s always known was right for her, Mays has worked with Dr. Sheridan in his laboratory that focuses on research in virology, immunology and stress biology. And just as she did when she was an undergraduate, Mays has specialized again in immunological research—but this time, with an emphasis on determining how stress affects the immune system and the immune response.

Mays’ research with Sheridan focused on the role of stress-induced regulation of the immune system, and their findings have shown that controlled social stress can stimulate enhanced immunological activity in mice that are subsequently exposed to a microbial infection. As a result of this research and a number of related publications, Mays has been offered a post-doctoral research position at the prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, working with Drs. Jack Bennink and Jonathan Yewdell, two of the NIH’s nationally renowned immunologists.

“When she joins the team at the NIH next year, Jacki will be working at one of the best labs in the country,” Sheridan says, “and she’ll be on a team with two of the most respected immunologists in the U.S. That’s quite a success story—for Jacki, for this dual degree program, and for Ohio State.”