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Interview: "AI and dental biomaterials can make great careers" Dr. Jason Griggs

Dr. Jason Griggs advises the dental biomaterial science students to learn the basic principles of processing -> structure -> properties thoroughly. (Image: Dr. Jason Griggs)
Dr. Amisha Parekh

Dr. Amisha Parekh

Tue. 10 October 2023


Dr. Jason Griggs, Associate Dean of Research, School of Dentistry, University of Mississippi Medical Center, who was recently awarded the prestigious Wilmer Souder Award by the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) for his outstanding achievements in dental materials research talks about his research journey and the future scope of dental biomaterial science in this interview with Dr. Amisha Parekh, Head, Dental Biomaterials, Dental Tribune South Asia.

Amisha Parekh: First of all, congratulations on receiving the Wilmer Souder Award from IADR! Could you tell us what this recognition means to you personally and in your career?

Dr. Jason Griggs: It is a tremendous honor for me because I remember my mentor (Ken Anusavice) winning the Souder Award when I was a PhD student. Ken was a great scientist and a hard worker. Every time I am selected for an award or a service position that he held, I feel that I have somehow repaid the time that he invested in training me.

Can you tell us about some of your most impactful research projects or discoveries in dental materials science that you believe contributed to receiving this award?

Most of my work has been aimed at developing mechanical test methods that are more efficient. Some of the highlights were demonstrating that finite element analysis can be used to predict cyclic fatigue lifetime, developing a statistical model to predict the result of two forms of lifetime acceleration (overstress and usage rate acceleration) and their interaction, training artificial neural networks to predict the fatigue limits of implants, developing the only method so far for measuring the fracture toughness of clinically failed ceramics, settling the controversy regarding healing behavior of hydrothermal porcelains, and determining which specimen dimensions result in the best precision for strength tests and fracture toughness tests.

Can you tell us about how your journey in dental materials research began and what motivated you to pursue this career?

I was taking an undergraduate course in glass formulation at the University of Florida from Larry Hench, who was famous for designing Bioglass. I decided not to waste this close contact with such a fine potential mentor, and I asked him for a summer research job. He said that he would wait to see how I performed in his course. I worked extra hard throughout the course, and when it came time to assign term projects each student chose a series of glass formulations for which to predict the structure and properties. Larry asked if someone would like to write software to automatically solve this type of problem for the general case, and I accepted and completed that challenge. He hired me to make laser cavities for anti-missile defense systems, but the defense project was then canceled by the sponsor. Through his work on Bioglass, Larry knew several professors in the campus hospital, including Ken Anusavice, who was famous for his work on dental materials. When Larry’s lab was downsized, he sent me and three other students to Ken, who had enough grant funding to hire 10+ students. I found myself in a wonderful environment and stayed there for my BS, MS, and PhD degrees.

Can you share some examples of collaborations or industry partnerships that have been particularly instrumental in your research journey?

It has been small benefits from many different sources. The primary thing has been to never refuse someone who asks for help. Whether it was to serve as a meeting organizer, society officer, grant reviewer, coinvestigator, course director, committee member, or mentor – if someone asked and I had the resources, then I said “yes”. This often resulted in working long hours and losing sleep, but it paid back the investment many folds.

Could you explain some key considerations when developing new dental materials?

Developing new materials has not been a major focus for me, but I have been successful in helping others on several occasions when they were out of ideas. In each case, my suggestions did not come from recent discoveries but rather from basic principles that I had encountered in formal courses decades before. My advice to students is to not just study for the exam grade. Learn the basic principles of processing-> structure-> properties thoroughly.

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges we face in dental materials science today, and how can the dental community address them?

The primary challenge is the disregard of many dental students for materials science. We know that the operator is the most important factor influencing the success (or failure) of dental surgeries. Dental materials researchers should give careful thought to making our research easy to understand and to developing teaching methods that hold dentists’ interest and long-term retention of information.

Could you enlighten us on any emerging trends or technologies in dental materials science that you believe will shape the future of dentistry?

We are at the beginning of a new age caused by advances in artificial intelligence. Learning to use AI as a research tool and learning the weaknesses of AI will be important to the career of most dental materials researchers in the future.

You have been utilizing some of the latest cutting-edge technologies in your research. How do you stay updated on the latest advancements in dental materials science and related fields?

It is important to make time for traveling and meeting face-to-face with other scientists. It also helps to agree to serve on panels that review grant applications.

Can you give us a sneak peek into some of your upcoming research projects?

Genetic algorithms cover for some of the weak points of AI. I am currently repeating some of my previous AI-powered studies using GA. I am also trying to develop a better large-crack fracture toughness test method for ceramics and a new dental implant design that should have greater primary stability in the low-quality bone.

Would you like to share some unique features or characteristics of the Biomedical Materials Science department at UMMC?

My current department has unprecedented levels of trust and transparency. This allows us to provide constructive criticism to each other and to team up in response to external threats more effectively than I have seen before. It is a helpful group of people that is a pleasure to work in.

Lastly, you are an inspiration for all young researchers. What advice would you give to young scientists or students who wish to pursue a career in biomedical materials science?

A successful scientist is one who can adapt to changes in topics and tools. Don’t allow yourself to be a ‘one-trick pony’ but rather be in a state of continuous learning.

About Dr. Jason Griggs:

Dr. Jason Griggs earned his Ph.D. in materials science & engineering from the University of Florida in 1998. He was mentored by Dr. Ken Anusavice and Dr. Jack Mecholsky. The same year he joined Baylor College of Dentistry as an Assistant Professor and later became a Professor, Graduate Program Director, and Vice-Chair of the Department of Biomaterials Science. In 2007, he moved to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), School of Dentistry as Chair of the Department of Biomedical Materials Science and became Associate Dean for Research a year later. He is a Fellow and former President of the Academy of Dental Materials, with numerous NIH grants, editorial roles, and over 90 peer-reviewed articles, eight book chapters (including those in a core dental materials textbook - Phillip's Science of Dental Materials), and two patents to his name.

Dr. Griggs has dedicated his research to two main areas: Accelerated Lifetime Testing (ALT) of medical materials and devices and analysis of broken surfaces to understand the origins and causes of failures. His expertise spans a wide range of materials and devices, including implant abutments, implant bodies, connector screws, polymer-based denture teeth, polycrystalline ceramics, glass-ceramics, fused layered ceramics, water pipes, and semiconductor wafers. In recent years, he has directed his attention towards design optimization and efficient screening of design factors. He utilizes cutting-edge techniques such as response surface methods and artificial intelligence to enhance the research process and improve outcomes.

Dr. Griggs was awarded the prestigious Wilmer Souder Award by the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) for his outstanding achievements in dental materials research. This award is one of the highest honors presented by IADR, a prominent international organization that focuses on promoting dental and oral health research. This award is named in honor of Dr. Wilmer Souder, a distinguished figure in the field of dental materials. He is recognized for his significant contributions to the study and advancement of dental materials science throughout his career. The Wilmer Souder Award is typically reserved for individuals who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments, leadership, and significant contributions to the field of dental materials research.

About Dr. Amisha Parekh:

Dr. Amisha Parekh is currently pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biomedical Materials Science at the University of Mississippi Medical Center - School of Dentistry, with an expected completion date in May 2025.

She heads the Dental Biomaterials section of Dental Tribune South Asia. She was also the Assistant Executive Editor of Dental Tribune South Asia (2021-22).

Dr. Amisha holds a copyright for her innovation "Dental high-speed handpiece with aerosol control (Copyright Registration No. L-95018/2020).

Also, her dissertation project: "Titanium (CPTi) implant surfaces with hydroxyapatite and tricalcium phosphate compounds to improve osseointegration" — is currently (as of Oct 2023) under intellectual property review.


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