2023 Research Excellence Award Winners

The School of Dentistry is pleased to announce Dr. Daniel Graf (Tier I) and Dr. Hollis Lai (Tier II) as the winners of the School of Dentistry’s inaugural Research Excellence Award Competition.

5 September 2023

The School of Dentistry is pleased to announce Dr. Daniel Graf (Tier I) and Dr. Hollis Lai (Tier II) as the winners of the School of Dentistry’s inaugural Research Excellence Award Competition.  

These awards publicly recognize research excellence by full-time faculty within the school. The Tier I Award honours outstanding researchers who are world leaders in their field, and who have been conducting research for 10 years or more since their first academic appointment. Tier I Award winners are nominated by their peers. The Tier II Award recognizes excellent emerging researchers who have been actively involved in conducting research for less than 10 years since their first academic appointment but have the potential to lead in their field. Tier II Award winners are nominated by their peers and/or trainees.

Daniel Graf, Tier I Award

In his time at the University of Alberta, Daniel Graf has consistently contributed to research and scholarship in oral health, specializing in the area of craniofacial tissues. His discoveries have led to an understanding of the role of Bone morphogenetic protein 7 in changes to tissues and cartilages, interventions to preserve cartilages, and treatment of osteolysis. These contributions have helped establish an internationally recognized research program here at our school. In addition, he has made significant contributions to our curriculum and the broader development of our department and the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. 

He will continue to initiate research collaborations within and across research units in the school and faculty, including internal collaborations with our Applied Oral Health Research Unit to develop clinical cohort studies to validate his discoveries on mechanisms of midfacial hypoplasia.

Graf is also a passionate mentor, mentoring 66 graduate and undergraduate students over the past eight years. He recognizes the strengths of his students, motivating them to take up leadership positions where they can build relationships, achieve tasks effectively, and display their communication skills. 

Hollis Lai, Tier II Award

Hollis Lai has been a full-time faculty member in the School of Dentistry since 2013. His work includes developing the processes and methods of how data is collected, analyzed and reported. He worked on applying and developing methods in medical education and he is now expanding the application of these techniques into dental research. 

“Dr. Lai has made great strides in bridging the gaps between different specialties and patient-care processes,” says Monica Gibson, former associate professor in periodontology. “He has started an innovative project automating periodontal patient data for artificial intelligence prediction. The outcome of this research will improve patient care not only in our school but in the entire specialty as a whole.”

Lai is also a  research supervisor and mentor to undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral fellows. He has supervised more than 50 students on medical and dental summer studentships and has helped develop student research initiatives.  As current PhD student Nazila Ameli says, “He is one of my biggest cheerleaders through thick and thin and always pushes me to explore new areas and take on challenging projects. He encourages me to be independent and think critically. This helps me to become self-sufficient in my future career and research.”

Congratulations to both Dr. Graf and Dr. Lai on their incredible achievements!