Undergraduate cardiovascular research program earns continued funding

Brendin Flinn at microscope
The American Heart Association has renewed funding for an undergraduate research program at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, directed by Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H., that encourages cardiovascular research among undergraduate students in West Virginia and surrounding states.

The three-year grant renewal will provide competitive summer internships for undergraduate students enrolled full-time at Marshall University and neighboring institutions. The internship includes a $6,000 stipend for five students each year and the opportunity to conduct research in state-of-the-art facilities alongside experienced faculty from the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. Likewise, in West Virginia, high prevalence of obesity and diabetes compounds the rates of cardiovascular disease.

“This program provides a great opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in research projects meaningful to West Virginia with faculty in our cardiovascular disease research cluster at Marshall University,” said Santanam, a professor of biomedical sciences at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. “This experience will not only improve their knowledge in cardiovascular diseases but also enhance their understanding of how to perform translational research. We look forward to continuing to grow the network of future junior researchers here in West Virginia through this program.”

While on campus, the student researchers participate in all summer activities hosted by WV-INBRE, a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded program. Interns will present the findings of their research projects at the WV-INBRE Summer Research Symposium. In addition, the interns will receive funds through the American Heart Association-funded program to present their work at a national or international scientific conference.

Since the grant was first awarded in 2015, more than 25 student researchers have participated in the program at Marshall University. Some of the research that previous students performed included deciphering genetic linkages to obesity and diabetes; understanding the role of Na+ K+ ATPase in cardiac function; investigating the role of non-coding RNAs in cardiac fat; and studying the effects of dietary or exercise interventions on behavior modifications.

To learn more about the program, visit https://jcesom.marshall.edu/research/office-of-research-and-graduate-education/research-clusters/cardiovascular-disease-research-cluster-cdrc/ or contact santanam@marshall.edu. For news and information about the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, follow us on Twitter @MUSOMWV, like us on Facebook or visit jcesom.marshall.edu.

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Photo: Brendin Flinn studied the non-coding ribonucleic acid (RNA) in cardiac fat in the lab of Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., as part of his American Heart Association internship at Marshall University in 2021.