- by Mount Saint Mary College
Science student works with professor in lab.

Hannah Mulhall with professor James Moran in 2014.

Mulhall earns PhD researching gum disease

Eight years ago, Hannah Mulhall ’15 was a sophomore Biology major spending her summertime conducting research on the cutting-edge blood substitute OxyVita.

Today, Mulhall is celebrating the completion of  her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y.

As a Ph.D. candidate, Mulhall’s research focused on periodontal (gum) disease, an infection that allows plaque to build up and harden on teeth. She has been working in the lab of Dr. Salomon Amar, DDS, Ph.D., Vice President for Research at New York Medical College. Amar and Mulhall are studying the use of probiotics to prevent and alleviate the symptoms of periodontal disease, such as inflammation of the gums and tooth loss.

The disease’s prevalence makes it an appealing target. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of Americans aged 30 or older have periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease.

Mulhall after receiving her Ph.D. earlier this year.

So far, Mulhall, Amar, and their fellow researchers have published several research papers on periodontal disease in prestigious academic publications such as Infection and Immunity and Microorganisms.

She credits the Natural Sciences department with setting her on the path to a Ph.D. James Moran, associate professor of Biology and director of the college’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), was Mulhall’s research mentor in the SURE program, where students work with professors on research and making meaningful contributions to their fields. 

Through SURE, Mulhall tested the immune response of Balb-C mice after multiple exposures of OxyVita, a blood substitute that can be produced in a liquid or powder form. In 2013, she presented her findings to the OxyVita Inc.’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology professionals, including president and CEO Hanna Wollocko.

Without a concrete idea of what she wanted to do after college, it was Moran’s suggestion that she continue her research into grad school that helped Mulhall to choose the career path she is on today.

“I think without getting to do research at the Mount, and having the professors push me, I wouldn’t be where I am now…[SURE] was a masterclass in critical thinking,” she said.

With a decade of higher education under her belt, Mulhall hopes to find work in the pharmaceutical industry.

Helping humanity is something Mulhall has wanted to do since she was a child. Those embers of service were stoked at the Mount, where, in the tradition of the founding Dominican Sisters, hands-on service is built into many classes and student clubs.

 “The whole reason I got into this is that I want to make some kind of positive impact,” she explained. “I want to use my education to improve peoples’ health and well-being.”

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