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Members of UH-HEART's third-year cohort included, front row from left, trainees Iman Jaka, Anh Tran Thu Le, Juslyn Dhingra and Caycel Desales and mentor/assistant program director Tho Tran; middle row, mentors Renita Horton and Yang Zhang, trainee Alisha Khan and mentor/program director Bradley McConnell; and, back row, mentors Yu Liu and Krishna Boini.

AHA Revives UH-HEART Program

Paid Summer Cardiovascular Research Program for Undergraduate Students, Recent Graduates Renewed for 3 Years

January 5 — The University of Houston’s Houston Experience for Advancing Research and Training (UH-HEART) program has been renewed for another three years with a $165,000 Institutional Award for Undergraduate Student Training grant from the American Heart Association (AHA).

The UH-HEART program, which began in 2021 and is open to students nationwide, provides 10 weeks of full-time transdisciplinary summer research experiences and translatable skills through enrichment activities, group based-workshops and seminars run under the guidance of a UH faculty sponsor. The aim is to prepare participants for future careers in cardiovascular-related research. At the end of the program, participants make a presentation on their experiences and research findings.

Up to five AHA research fellowships will be awarded to rising juniors, seniors, and recent graduates with a $6,000 stipend per participant, with additional optional funding for travel to a national or international conference with a faculty mentor within six months of program completion. For this summer, the program will send the cohort to the AHA Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Scientific (BCVS) Session in Chicago to network with cardiovascular researchers from across the globe, to discover the latest research and findings, and to meet other passionate peers in similar programs.

Applications open this month for the 2024 cohort which begins with a virtual orientation the week of May 20 and runs through August 2. The AHA BCVS will be from July 22-25. The deadline for priority review is February 29, with the final deadline for applications and letters of recommendation being March 24.

Anh-Thu Tran Le, 2023 cohort participant, attributes UH-HEART for highlighting the pivotal role of research in higher studies across various fields and changing the trajectory of her career path.

"UH-HEART has drawn me toward the exciting realm of research, and its significance cannot be understated," Le said. "This research opportunity has redirected my career aspirations toward becoming a surgeon with a focus on clinical research."

Past cohort participants are applying to medical or graduate school, currently attending medical school and many, like Le, have continued researching in the laboratories of their UH-HEART faculty mentors. For example, UH-HEART 2021 cohort participant Jing (Jett) Ming is now a first year Pharm.D. student at UHCOP.

The UH-HEART program leadership consists of Bradley K. McConnell, Ph.D., FAHA, FCVS, professor of pharmacology and UH-HEART principal investigator/program director; and Tho Tran, Ph.D., research assistant professor of chemistry and UH-HEART assistant program director. Other faculty mentors participating in the program are Krishna Boini, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology; Yang Zhang, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology; Renita Horton, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Yu Liu, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry; and Preethi Gunaratne, Ph.D., Moores Professor of Biology and Biochemistry.

The program is housed within the UH Drug Discovery Institute, which fosters transdisciplinary collaborations between faculty from UH colleges of Engineering, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Medicine, Natural Science and Mathematics, Optometry, and Pharmacy.