Grant Supports Undergraduate Research on Cardiovascular Disease

A new grant from the American Heart Association will support the formation of a Summer Translational Cardiovascular Sciences Institute (STCSI) for the training of undergraduate students who are interested in conducting research on cardiovascular disease.

"Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans, and the situation likely will get worse given the current obesity and diabetes epidemics," said Donna Korzick, an associate professor of physiology and of kinesiology and the grant's principal investigator. "Our goal is to provide a new generation of scientists and physicians with comprehensive research training and educational experiences to address this problem." 

The new grant—which totals $40,000—will provide funds for five undergraduate students for two years to conduct research related to cardiovascular disease, focusing in particular on the cellular mechanisms of cardiovascular disease pathology and the determinants of cardiovascular disease risk across the lifespan. Two additional students will be supported using matching funds provided by the deans of the College of Health and Human Development and the College of Engineering, and faculty members of those colleges will serve as mentors to the students.

In addition to conducting research, the students will attend a weekly seminar series that will focus on four main areas: (1) understanding cardiovascular disease risk incidence and assessment from infancy to old age, (2) identifying the mechanisms that underlie cardiovascular pathophysiology using human and animal models, (3) understanding behavioral intervention research strategies to positively affect cardiovascular disease risk, and (4) identifying core technologies and novel applications of nano-scale biotechnology to better understand cardiovascular disease biology and development of novel therapeutic interventions.

Students also will participate in a journal club and attend seminars given by invited speakers. Further, they will be required to present their research data as a poster at a Penn State research symposium and will be encouraged to prepare an abstract for a national meeting and to submit their data to a peer-reviewed journal.

According to Korzick, recruitment of students will occur in spring 2012, and the program will start in June 2012. Students who receive support from the grant must have completed 60 to 90 credits at the University Park campus and have a grade-point average of 3.5 or greater. Priority selection will be given to those students who already have been accepted as trainees in the laboratories of faculty members participating in the STCSI, but who have not yet started their projects, and to those students who are willing to commit to working in their mentors' laboratories for an additional two semesters beyond the two years they are required to commit. 

Peter Butler, an associate professor of bioengineering, is a co-investigator on the award.

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For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.