Student researchers in a lab

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.

Summer 2021 Applications are now closed. Please be on the lookout for Summer 2022 opportunities early next year!

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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 UH Colleges of Engineering, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Medicine, Natural Science and Mathematics, Optometry, Pharmacy, and Technology.



  • 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. 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.

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

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 2021 AHA Fellowship

Applications Open Friday April 23, 2021
Application Deadline Sunday May 9, 2021
Applicants Notified Monday May 17, 2021
Applicant Reply Deadline Wednesday May 19, 2021
Expectations Form Due Wednesday May 19, 2021
Virtual Orientation Week of Monday May 24, 2021
Program Start Wednesday June 2, 2021
Program End Wednesday August 4, 2021
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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. The format should be single space, 1” borders, and either Arial 11 or Times New Roman 12 font
  • One Recommendation Letter sent directly to Dr. Tho Tran from the reference person. Please title email as “[Applicant name] AHA 2021
  • Updated CV or Resume
  • Official or Unofficial Transcript(s)
  • All required fields completed

The online application form will open Friday April 23, 2021. All materials, except the recommendation letter, should be emailed to Dr. Tho Tran from the applicant. The recommendation letter, with the official letterhead and signature, should be sent directly to Dr. Tho Tran from the reference person.

All items must be submitted in Word or PDF format. Only completed applications will be reviewed.

The application deadline is Sunday May 9, 2021.


  • 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 UH President, 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.