USF awarded AHA Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships program

The program, one of five awarded nationally this year, pairs faculty mentors from USF Health’s Heart Institute with promising students interested in cardiovascular or related biomedical research

The American Heart Association has awarded the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine a three-year, $60,000 grant to establish a summer training program intended to encourage promising undergraduate college students from all disciplines to consider careers in cardiovascular research.

The AHA-sponsored Undergraduate Student Fellowship grant was one of five newly awarded in 2018 to institutions across the United States. And, the 13 total undergraduate student fellowship programs currently funded by AHA include such prestigious institutions as Stanford University, the University of California San Diego, Pennsylvania State University and Carnegie Mellon University, to name a few.

USF Health’s Heart Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships program begins May 28, providing a 10-week research experience for five highly qualified junior and senior-level undergraduate students. This summer, all five student fellows entering the rigorous program are from USF, but qualifying U.S. and international students from other institutions can apply.  The AHA grant funds $4,000 stipends to support each trainee.

Jerome Breslin, PhD, professor in the USF Health Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, directs the newly awarded Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships program sponsored by the American Heart Association. Dr. Breslin is pictured here in 2016 with two USF undergraduate students who conducted NIH and American Physiological Society fellowship-supported research in his laboratory — Sara Sampinato (left), chemical engineering major, and Andrea Burgess, biomedical sciences major. |Photo by Eric Younghans

“Our main goal is to recruit, train and mentor outstanding undergraduate students so they can become the next generation of graduate students and medical students who will be future leaders and advocates for cardiovascular research,” said Jerome Breslin, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology who directs this new AHA fellowship program at USF.

Five faculty members — all members of the USF Health Heart Institute with a solid track record of producing successful scientists — will mentor the undergraduate fellows through their individualized summer research experiences. Four faculty mentors are from Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology: Dr Breslin; Ruisheng Liu, MD, PhD, professor; Sami Noujaim, PhD, assistant professor; and Sarah Yuan, MD, PhD, departmental chair and professor. The fifth, Mack Wu, MD, holds appointments as a professor in the Department of Surgery and the Department of Molecular Medicine.

Graduate and doctoral students will also help mentor, giving the undergraduates an opportunity to interact with researchers at all levels, Dr. Breslin said.

The students will train in laboratories using cutting-edge technology to better understand the underlying mechanisms of diseases and discover new therapies.  Their cardiovascular research projects will focus on basic science areas in which the Heart Institute investigators are experts, including:  endothelial function, microcirculation, hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias.

In addition to laboratory research, students will participate in weekly seminars and workshops designed to instill scientific rigor, develop professional skills, and help them begin building a network needed to pursue a career in science.

“At the USF Health Heart Institute, we want to create the most vibrant research environment possible for all levels of trainees. That means reaching out to students who are still undergraduates to nurture their interest in cardiovascular or related biomedical sciences with a meaningful summer research experience. Ultimately we want to get more young scientists into the pipeline – and it’s never too early to start that process.”

This summer, the five student fellows participating in the AHA program were selected from among 18 applicants, including several from the University of Florida and Florida State University.  For the first summer, all these undergraduate participants are from USF:

USF Juniors (all majoring in biomedical sciences)
Nouhaila Beytour, Dr. Noujaim (faculty mentor); Veneta Dinova, Dr. Liu; Rebeca Gonzalez Jauregui, Dr. Breslin; and Ethan Zheng, Dr. Yuan.

USF Senior (majoring in public health)
Forouzandeh Farsaei, Dr. Breslin

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