Dr Mangala Patel
Dr Mangala Patel is Reader in Biomaterials in Relation to Dentistry and Senior Tutor at the Institute of Dentistry. She joined Council as an academic staff representative in September 2017, and will be a member until September 2021.
Why did you decide to stand for Council?
I received a couple of emails from ARCS (Academic Registry and Council Secretariat) calling for nominations for academic elected members of Council. I was really drawn to the idea of being on Council, of giving something back to the university, and so I discussed it with colleagues who were supportive. My role model was my ex-PhD supervisor. He would do anything for Queen Mary and now I’m following in his footsteps, doing my bit for the university too.
What were your impressions of your first Council meeting?
It was very well run and everyone was really friendly. I felt honoured to be there.
What’s your proudest achievement since you’ve been at Queen Mary?
There are two things I would say I’m most proud of achieving during my time here: the first was attaining my PhD. My mum, who passed away when I was 13, always wanted me to be a doctor. It was a difficult time for our family and I was not able to pursue this path, but when I arrived at the Institute of Dentistry (which was then part of the London Hospital Medical College, now Queen Mary) as a research assistant (RA) I discovered that postgraduate study was something I could do. I started a part-time MSc while working as an RA during the day. I had classes three nights a week and practicals on Saturdays. The work I did for my MSc formed the basis of my PhD. The second would be my appointment as Reader in 2011, which I achieved on the back of a large research grant I brought in.
Are you working on any interesting research at the moment?
My team and I were awarded a proof of concept grant from QMI (Queen Mary Innovation) in May 2017 to develop a toothpaste/mouthwash or gel that will bond to the spaces between the teeth and continually release fluoride ions into the mouth. The product will contain LDH (Layered Double Hydroxide), which is capable of absorbing and releasing low levels of fluoride (and other ions) repeatedly. We’re hoping that the long-term low-level release of fluoride in this way will help to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride naturally occurs in many foods and drinks, such as tea and coffee, but it enters and leaves the mouth so quickly that it doesn’t have a long-term effect on dental health.
What would be your advice to students starting at Queen Mary this year?
I am the senior tutor for the Dental Institute and the most important thing I’ve noticed is that students need to ask for help if they’re struggling. We see so many students who struggle to make the leap from school to university life – which is completely normal – you just need to make your tutors aware so that we can provide the support you need. In the Dental Institute, we offer transition courses for our first-year students which gives them tools to survive and thrive at university.
What do you get up to when you’re not at Queen Mary?
I love being with my family. I have three children – two daughters and a son – and although they’re grown up, we still enjoy spending time together. The highlight of our year is our big family holiday in the US – we spend two weeks in either Las Vegas or Orlando. Last year we went to Las Vegas – we’ve been at least five times! We love the buzz and the sunny weather. It’s impossible to get bored and it gives me a real chance to switch off from work; I don’t even take my phone with me.