Building research independence and curiosity

Meet: Dr Rita Hardiman

Dr Rita Hardiman is a Senior Lecturer within the Oral Anatomy, Medicine, Surgery (OAMS) and Special Needs Dentistry group at the Melbourne Dental School. Dr Hardiman's research interests lie in human anatomy and mineralised tissue (bones, teeth, and dental calculus). She has been researching and teaching at the Melbourne Dental School for 9 years.

Dr Rita Hardiman (Melbourne Dental School)

Q&A WITH DR RITA HARDIMAN

Why is your research important?

"Mineralised tissues are great recorders of life events. They can tell us a lot about people's activities, diet, development and overall health. Increasingly, the discoveries made about mineralised tissues have applications in a number of scientific/health fields. One of the advantages of mineralised tissues is that they can survive a long time after the death of an organism (think fossils) and are able to reveal information for all of that time."

What is working as part of your research group at the Melbourne Dental School like

"Research in mineralised tissues at the Melbourne Dental School reveals many opportunities for collaboration with scientists in many different parts of the world and from diverse disciplines: from osteoporosis researchers, forensic anthropologists to odontologists and zoologists. We are a very collaborative group and always look for opportunities far afield."

Can you describe a day in your life at the Melbourne Dental School?

"A typical day for me, as far as there can be one, might involve scanning a tooth sample in our microCT scanner, 3D printing a skull, contacting other researchers locally or internationally about an ongoing project (a few late-night Skype conferences!), and helping other researchers access our Melbourne Femur Research Collection, which is a collection of international significance."

What might surprise students about the Honours/Masters/PhD experience at the Melbourne Dental School?

"I think most students excel in making a project their own. Once they work out what the question is, they really adopt and nurture their projects. It wouldn't come as a surprise that sometimes the hard work and requirement for constant effort can sometimes bring students down – but we've all been through that at some stage and can understand what that's like! I love it when a student's project truly becomes theirs, and they start generating their own questions and ideas. It's an invigorating process to watch and be a part of."

"Our former students have gone on to very strong discipline leadership roles or other roles not specifically in the discipline they studied – it's such an individual experience!"

Looking for an Honours or Masters Project for 2020?

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Dr Rita Hardiman has been featured in the following Pursuit articles:

How a thirst for knowledge led to a career among bones

The unexpected gift of bones