research student looking into a microscope

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! Deadline to apply has been extended to Sunday, March 31. Please also consider applying to our new UH-CURE program.

Applications closed on Sunday, March 31, 2024. 

Thank you for applying to UH-HEART. Due to a large volume of applications, we are in the process of reviewing and will notify you as soon as possible.

2023 Cohart Team
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

  • 3.0 GPA or higher. Extenuating circumstances will be considered
  • Rising junior or senior in college, or immediate college 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

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 2024
  • Updated CV or Resume(PDF)
  • Official Transcript(s)(PDF) preferred; unofficial transcripts (PDF) must contain proper identifying information, such as name, university, and semester. 
  • All required fields completed

The online application form will open January 2024. Only completed applications, including reference letters, will be reviewed.

The application deadline is Sunday, March 31, 2024.

$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.

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.

  • 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
  • Applications Open: January 2024
  • Deadline for Applications and Letters of Recommendation: Sunday, March 31, 2024
  • Applicants Notified: Friday, April 12, 2024
  • Applicant Reply Deadline: Sunday, April 21, 2024
  • Virtual Orientation Week of May 20, 2024
  • Program Start: Tuesday, May 28, 2024
  • AHA Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Conference: July 22-25, 2024
  • Program End: Friday, August 2, 2023

"From all the protocols, experiments, and facts I learned, what I appreciate the most about this program is the people I met on this journey."

— Robert Flores, University of St. Thomas, 2021 UH-HEART Fellow

Roberto Flores in lab
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About the Program

Established in 2021, the UH-HEART program is dedicated to shaping the upcoming generation of diverse cardiovascular researchers. The program's goals are to offer transdisciplinary research exposure and a toolkit of adaptable skills, preparing students for future careers in cardiovascular-related research. The progress of scientific innovation in cardiovascular research relies on the current training of a diverse community of aspiring scientists, both scientifically and demographically. To inspire promising undergraduates to explore cardiovascular research careers, it is crucial to provide them with robust research experiences that aid in discovering their passions. As societal health challenges become more intricate, instilling a transdisciplinary and collaborative mindset in students is equally important for unlocking innovative solutions.

Notable highlights of the program include a 10-week intensive, hands-on research experience under the guidance of excellent mentors, dedicated professional development training, and a cohort group travel to one of the largest cardiovascular research conferences globally.

Learn More

Full Cohort Outside E Cullen
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BCVS Conference

This summer, the 2024 UH-HEART cohort is set to attend the American Heart Association (AHA) Basic Cardiovascular Scientific (BCVS) Sessions, a premier global conference for cutting-edge cardiovascular research. At this significant event, UH-HEART fellows will engage with other passionate scientists, delving into discussions and presentations on the latest therapeutics for cardiovascular diseases. They will connect with leading researchers in microRNAs, cardiac gene therapy, tissue engineering, and more. Crucially, fellows will forge valuable connections with like-minded colleagues keen on a research career. 

The BCVS is happening in Chicago, Illinois, from July 22 to July 25, and all fellows will have their lodging, travel, and registration expenses covered through their research stipend!

2023 UH-HEART cohort presenting at BCVS Conference in Boston.
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AHA renews the UH-HEART program for another three years.
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"Throughout the program, I have had exposure to people with different degrees and paths, and it has been inspiring to hear from them. I have been able to really understand the experience of graduate students as I work alongside them every day in the lab." 

— Asha Ayyar, University of Texas at Austin, 2022

Asha Ayyar
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American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. As the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization, the AHA advances groundbreaking research, provides lifesaving resources, and promotes healthier lifestyles.

American Heart Association

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