Current DSTP Trainees

Dental scientist trainees earn both a D.M.D. degree and a Ph.D. degree. Are you interested in learning more about our current trainees? Keep reading below! 

Dustin Mueller

Entered Dual-Degree program: June 2019

Biography: Dustin graduated with a BS in Biotechnology from North Dakota State and then a MS in Biomedical Sciences from Midwestern University. Dustin joined the DSTP with extensive research experience, especially in dental biomaterials and is an author on 4 publications in that area from his MS degree. Dustin completed his first year in the DMD part of the integrated curriculum and in spite of COVID completed rotations in the laboratories of Dr. Patrick Woster, Dr. Jeremy Gilbert, and Dr. Hai Yao.

Dustin is very active as a member of the Psi Omega dental fraternity, the D.M.D. first year representative to ADEA, a participant in an interprofessional Clarion competition, and a member of the ADEA AADSAS Advisory group. He also has two small children and wife who is a dentist.

Dissertation Advisor:
Dr. Hai Yao


Charles Holjencin

Entered Dual-Degree program: June 2018

Biography: Charles received his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Biology from the University of Pittsburgh and his Master’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Hawaii. Charles chose Dr. Andrew Jakymiw as his PhD mentor and is working on optimizing delivery of therapeutics via cell penetrating peptides to treat oral cancer. Toward this end the first part of his project is to optimize a unique peptide (599), developed by the lab, to both bind to and effectively chaperone/transport siRNA or miRNA into cells for treatment of oral cancer by targeting the oncoprotein CIP2A. He has generated eight 599 peptide variants and tested them for binding, protection, and release of siRNA via gel shift assays, delivery into cells via Fluorescence microscopy, and effectiveness at altering CIP2A expression by qPCR and western blot analysis. This comparative assessment has led to further development of 599 and its variants and a patent application by Charles and his mentor.

Charles enjoys most things outdoors especially hiking, gardening, and woodworking. He also enjoys cooking and spending time with his family and four dogs (2 labradors and 2 pugs). Though he enjoys living in beautiful coastal South Carolina, and previously Hawaii, he misses the winters of Pennsylvania.

Dissertation Advisor:
Dr. Andrew Jakymiw

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Holjencin C., Feinberg C, Hedrick T, Halsey G, Williams RD, Patel P, Biles, E, Cummings JC, Wagner C, Vyavahare N, and Jakymiw A Advancing peptide siRNA carrier designs through stereochemistry and D-Amino acids modifications to enhance gene silencing Molecular Therapy-Nucleic Acids (in review).

 Christina Kingsley

Entered Dual-Degree program: June 2020

Biography: Christina graduated cum laude receiving her BS double majoring in Biology in Sociology from Loyola University Maryland. During her undergraduate training she was inducted into the Alpha Kappa Delta Sociology Honor Society as well as Tri Beta Biology Honor Society, in which she served as president. She was also very active on campus as a Social Impact Fellow and advocate at an organization called Healthcare for the Homeless. She conducted undergraduate research investigating the influence of black tea on macrophage activity and was a Hauber Research Fellow at Loyola. After graduation, she took a gap year where she focused on clinical research in the Department of Neurology at the University of Maryland Medical School.

Christina is a big foodie, so she is always up for trying new places to eat and finding recipes to try online. She also is an avid NFL fan, and is always up for throwing the ball around in the park or on the beach. She also likes to play the piano and enjoys scrapbooking in her free time.