University of South Florida

USF student strives to heals hearts inside and outside the laboratory

Ryan Grabau, junior Biomedical Sciences major at the University of South Florida.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a heart attack – about 790,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  These statistics and the desire to understand why heart attacks happen became the basis for University of South Florida student Ryan Grabau’s research.

Grabau’s studies of how to help heal damaged hearts led to his selection to participate in the world-renowned Experiential Biology (EB) 2019 in Orlando, April 6 through 9.  EB is one of the largest and most prestigious interdisciplinary meetings of its kind for biomedical and life sciences researchers.  Many EB presenters and experts are well-known in their field and hold graduate and doctoral degrees.  Grabau, a junior biomedical sciences major at USF, is one of a select few undergraduate students chosen to present his research findings during this year’s conference.

“I’m extremely excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to hear and see all of the collaboration and brilliant scientific minds,” said the 20-year old Valrico, FL native.  I know this opportunity doesn’t come to a lot of undergraduate students, and I’m looking forward to taking in the experience and making connections to further my research goals.”

Grabau’s research focuses on a nanoparticle-delivered drug that has been shown in laboratory models to help slow down inflammation in the injured area of the heart and reduce the possibility of blood clotting in the affected area.  His mentor, Hua Pan, PhD, MBA, assistant professor of cardiovascular sciences and member of the USF Health Heart Institute, describes him as very independent and relentless in his pursuit of knowledge in the laboratory while balancing a rigorous class schedule and personal commitments.

“Ryan is not like any student I’ve mentored in the past. His work ethic and attention to detail are unmatched,” Dr. Pan said. “He shows dedication to everything he does inside and outside of the lab.  This is a testament to the university and its reputation for developing quality citizens in the community. Ryan is truly everything that is great about the university.”

When he’s not trying to figure out how to heal damaged hearts in the lab, Grabau is helping to heal hearts through community engagement.  He’s a regular volunteer in several organizations, including the Camp Kesem he cofounded at USF; the national nonprofit organization provides a free week of summer camp for children of cancer patients.



He also teaches preschool at his church and volunteers with USF’s Kosove Society, made up of a group of academically-talented student leaders dedicated to community service. As a society scholarship recipient, he regularly participates in community service activities at local Ronald McDonald Houses, river clean-ups, animal rescue fundraisers, and OASIS Network, which provides necessities to underprivileged students in Hillsborough County schools.

Grabau’s sense of selfless service and his passion for heart research is helping advance the goal he’s set to become cardiologist who can both treat injured hearts and improve heart health.

Photos by Fredrick J. Coleman, USF Health Communications and Marketing

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