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UH-HEART Program

Interested in a future in cardiovascular research?

Funded by the American Heart Association (AHA), the University of Houston’s – Houston Experience for Advancing Research and Training (UH-HEART) program provides transdisciplinary summer research experiences and translatable skills that prepare participants for future careers in cardiovascular-related research.

Up to five AHA research fellowships will be awarded to rising juniors, seniors, and recent graduates for a 10-week, full-time research experience. Participants will be engaged in a variety of cardiovascular research and enrichment activities under the guidance of a UH faculty sponsor.

All eligible students are invited to apply!

Applications are now closed.

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Program participants can expect to:

  1. Become a contributing team member in a cutting-edge cardiovascular research laboratory
  2. Develop responsible research skills
  3. Gain didactic knowledge and firsthand experience of transdisciplinary research, collaborations and communication
  4. Cultivate the basic and transferable skills necessary for succeeding in graduate school and a subsequent career in research

UH-HEART is housed within the newly established UH Drug Discovery Institute, which fosters transdisciplinary collaborations between faculty from UHColleges of Engineering, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Medicine, Natural Science and Mathematics, Optometry, Pharmacy, and Technology.

View Past Participants UH-HEART News


  • Dr. Bradley McConnell, Professor of Pharmacology

    Nature of Work: A summer research experience in the McConnell laboratory would be working with a team of graduate students and postdoctoral fellow to either (1) characterize A-kinase Anchoring Proteins (AKAP) “signalosomes” in β-adrenergic receptor (βAR) mediated signaling, (2) define βAR-mediated “biased” signaling, or (3) investigate reprogrammed cardiac conducting cells for cardiac repair. By addressing clinically significant basic science questions, our overall objective in the McConnell Laboratory is to better understand cardiac signaling mechanisms and towards developing therapeutics for heart repair.

    Website: Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Houston

  • Dr. Renita Horton, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering

    Nature of Work: A summer research experience in the Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Laboratory (CTEL) would focus on designing and building organs-on-chip microdevices and imaging engineered tissues for cardiovascular disease studies. Students will also gain exposure to 3D printing and cell culture techniques for tissue engineering applications.

    Website: Biomedical Engineering, Cullen College of Engineering, University of Houston

  • Dr. Krishna Boini, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology

    Nature of Work: A summer research experience in the Boini laboratory would focus on studying obesity-induced Nlrp3 inflammasomes. Inflammasome activation is proposed as a key mechanism responsible for obesity-induced glomerular injury via its inflammatory and non-inflammatory actions. Thus, we will test whether obesity-induced Nlrp3 inflammasome activation contributes to glomerular injury. The findings from our studies will identify new mechanistic insights for targeting inflammasomes to develop novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) in obese patients.

    Website: Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Houston

  • Dr. Yang Zhang, Associate Professor of Pharmacology

    Nature of Work: A summer research experience in the Zhang laboratory will study how an epigenetic enzyme that usually modifies the chromosomal DNA contributes to vascular cell dysfunction and thereby provokes vascular injury and artery hardening in the settings of obesity and diabetes. The molecular mechanisms will focus on the role of this enzyme in the regulation of lysosome function, autophagic flux, and exosomal signaling.

    Website: Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Houston

  • Dr. Preethi Gunaratne, Moores Professor of Biology and Biochemistry

    Nature of Work: A summer research experience in the Gunaratne laboratory will have two areas of focus: (1) Precision Oncology Platforms focused on Remote Sensing Precancerous Lesion using Single Cell Sequencing and Discovering Actionable Fusions for developing mRNA Vaccines for Cancer Treatment and Prevention. (2) Discovering New Druggable Targets and Biomarkers for Remote Sensing Brain Changes from Opioid Addiction through the microRNA-Regulated Transcriptomic Changes from Drug Abuse. To achieve these goals, her lab has established a functional genomics platform that combines the latest Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) and bioinformatics tools with high-throughput functional screens to identify critical drivers of biological networks during development and the perturbation of normal networks in complex diseases.

    Website:  Department of Biology and Biochemistry, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, University of Houston

  • Dr. Yu Liu, Associate Professor of Biochemistry

    Nature of Work: A summer research experience in the Liu laboratory would focus on embryonic and adult stem cell theories and experimental practices. Currently, the Liu lab is using animal models to address how ectopic expression (transgenic) or deletion (knockout) of miR-322/503 affects normal heart function and the outcome of ischemic heart diseases.

    Website: Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston

Please note that individual research projects may vary from the descriptions due to availability or other factors.

Student Stipend

$6,000 stipend per participant for the ten-week program, with additional optional funding for travel to a national or international conference with a faculty mentor within six months of program completion.

Key Dates for Summer 2023 AHA Fellowship

Applications Open January 2023
Priority Deadline Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Deadline for Applications and Letters of Recommendation Sunday, March 19, 2023
Applicants Notified Friday, April 14, 2023
Applicant Reply Deadline Sunday, April 23, 2023
Virtual Orientation Week of May 22, 2023
Program Start Tuesday, May 30, 2023
AHA Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Conference July 31-August 3, 2023
Program End Friday August 4, 2023
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  • 3.0 GPA or higher. Extenuating circumstances will be considered
  • Rising junior, senior, or immediate graduate
  • Be available for full-time participation in the 10-week program
  • At the time of application, student must be a United States citizen, or a foreign national holding a student, exchange, or permanent resident visa, including an F-1, H1, H1B, J1, PR, TC or TN visa

Application Process

A complete application includes:

  • One-page Personal Statement on student’s interest in cardiovascular research, future career aspirations, and goals to accomplish in the program.
  • Two Recommendation Letters submitted from the reference person through the online submission tab. Applicants must provide recommendation submission link to references. Please title document as “[Applicant name] AHA 2023
  • Updated CV or Resume(PDF)
  • Official Transcript(s)(PDF)
  • All required fields completed

The online application form will open Tuesday February 1, 2023. Only completed applications, including reference letters, will be reviewed.

The application deadline is Sunday, March 19, 2023.


  • Full-time participation in research and enrichment activities
  • One-page narrative at the end of the program to be submitted to the AHA
  • Completion of progression surveys throughout the program and beyond
  • Annual update on academic and career activities


Accepted fellows may elect to stay in on-campus housing at any of the available facilities at an affordable rate. For additional help, please contact Dr. Tho Tran.

COVID-19 Guidelines

UH-HEART will ensure that the students will be provided with the highest quality training possible while maintaining a high degree of safety. Importantly, the program will follow the guidelines set forth by the UHPresident, following guidance from the Texas Governor and the CDC.

All students will take proper safety training for social distancing, sanitation, and other measures to minimize viral exposure, spread, and infection. The program activities will be prepared to implement virtually, if necessary. Please visit the UH-COVID-19 guidelines page for more information.


Please contact Dr. Tho Tran, the Assistant Director, or contact Dr. Bradley McConnell, the Program Director, if you have any questions or if you require additional information.


Dr. Bradley McConnell   Dr. Tho Tran

Dr. Bradley McConnell


Dr. Tho Tran

Program Director   Assistant Director