Research Success through Mentorship

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the spring 2018 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
Doctoral student Danyal Siddiqui BS’15, MS’16 has succeeded at UTD through hard work and faculty mentorship.
Researchers learn by working with other researchers, which is why establishing a strong mentoring relationship is so important to a student’s success.
UT Dallas has many faculty members who are mentoring the next generation of researchers. Take, for example, Dr. Danieli Rodrigues and doctoral student Danyal Siddiqui BS’15, MS’16.
Siddiqui entered UTD in 2011, enrolling in the new biomedical engineering program. It was while taking a biomaterials class led by Rodrigues that Siddiqui first considered conducting research.
“Dr. Rodrigues has been a guide for me since the day I met her,” Siddiqui said. “I saw how she interacted with the graduate students and how the graduate students took that to the undergraduate students.”
Rodrigues, an assistant professor in bioengineering, assigned Siddiqui his own project and taught him to research the literature.
Empowered by Rodrigues, the undergraduate developed a corrosion testing setup for his project. As a senior, Siddiqui received an Undergraduate Research Award for examining the use of titanium in orthopedics.
Now, as a doctoral student, Siddiqui is focused on testing the material properties of zirconia dental implants.
Siddiqui says that zirconia has several advantages over the current benchmark metal, titanium, including less plaque accumulation, smaller chances for infection and a more natural look. A zirconia implant is safe, but little is known about how it wears compared to titanium. That’s where Siddiqui’s research comes in. He will test zirconia implants in several simulations of the normal wear and tear of a tooth.
Rodrigues’ mentorship continues in the doctoral program. She encouraged Siddiqui to apply for the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which he was awarded.
“The elements I mostly concentrated on when training Danyal were writing papers and proposals, and speaking effectively,” said Rodrigues. “I believe these are some of the best contributions I can make for the professional development of my students.”
Under Rodrigues’ direction, Siddiqui also secured an internship at the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C. During the internship, he tested how normal wear on cardiovascular stents can lead to increased corrosion.
“I am invested in connecting my students with clinical collaborators and industry partners to generate professional growth and opportunities for their future careers,” said Rodrigues.
Siddiqui is a Eugene McDermott Graduate Fellow, the winner of the University’s Three Minute Thesis competition and a recipient of the Jonsson Family Bioengineering Fellowship. He is also author or co-author of 10 research papers with Rodrigues and their collaborators.

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