Virtual Gatherings During COVID-19 Matter

Past and present visiting scholars from Brazil, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Spain, Malaysia and Turkey were brought together virtually by the Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics (MDRCBB) this month.

“We are all eager to be back in the lab, but in the meantime, there is value in virtual connection,” said Professor Alex Fok, PhD, director of the MDRCBB. “Our best work is built on collaboration and partnerships with people and organizations around the world.”

Dental faculty and graduate student leaders from underdeveloped and developing countries have been visiting the MDRCBB for several months each year since 2016 to learn in a multi-disciplinary environment and participate in research in biomaterials, biomechanics, and related sciences.

“While being isolated in many ways, this was a good way to reconnect with our past and present visiting scholars who have a special place in our hearts as we go through this unprecedented time in history,” said Bonita VanHeel, principal laboratory technician at the MDRCBB.

The visiting scholars program – known as 3M Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) - is funded entirely by 3Mgives and run by the MDRCBB.

“This first virtual meeting reminded me of my time in Minnesota, discussing and exploring together with a diverse group of people,” said Jiajun Yang, a graduate student from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China and 2019 participant. “These meetings provide an opportunity for me to meet researchers I have not met. We are gathered together by the U for science, like their motto: Driven to Discover.”