College of Engineering receives AHA Undergraduate Research Fellowship Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The College of Engineering and the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State have been awarded the 2018 Institutional Undergraduate Student Fellowship by the American Heart Association (AHA).

Funding from the award will support the Penn State Summer Translational Cardiovascular Science Institute (STCSI), a 10-week program open to undergraduate students at Penn State and from other institutions across the nation who have a demonstrated interest in cardiovascular science.

“The STCSI is a fantastic opportunity to create the next generation of researchers to engage in efforts to understand, prevent and cure cardiovascular disease by working with faculty combating this disease,” said Keefe Manning, professor of biomedical engineering, STCSI program director and principal investigator. “Hopefully, this will stimulate interest for these students to remain engaged with cardiovascular disease research in the future.”

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels, is the number one cause of death globally. While the risk of developing the disease can be controlled by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake and other behavioral modifications, the current obesity and diabetes epidemics in the United States will likely lead to CVD health care challenges that have not been experienced before. A comprehensive understanding of these emerging challenges will be a focus of the STCSI.

“It is important to understand the mechanisms by which lifestyle and pharmacological intervention mitigate the development of cardiovascular disease,” said Lacy Alexander, associate professor of kinesiology at Penn State, and co-principal investigator. “We all know that exercise and eating right is good for us, but there are situations where these strategies are not possible for some people. Furthermore, we can understand how pharmacological interventions and lifestyle modifications can be optimized for the greatest benefit.”

Each student in the program will receive a $4,000 stipend to conduct research on CVD, focusing on the cellular mechanisms of CVD pathology, the determinants of its risk across the lifespan, and the development of cardiovascular device technology to address the disease. Students will also attend seminars related to professional development, including a weekly seminar series that focuses on four main areas of CVD, and will partake in field trips to Actuated Medical Inc. and Penn State Hershey Medical Center’s Applied Biomedical Engineering group to experience firsthand how technology can be used to address problems associated with CVD.

While the three-year award supports up to five students in the program per year, several colleges across Penn State, including the College of Health and Human Development, College of Engineering, Eberly College of Science and Schreyer Honors College, are matching the funds provided by the AHA to support five additional student training slots annually, increasing the total amount to 10 students participating in the STCSI program per year. In addition, the Office of Commonwealth Campuses has secured funds for one more student in the program for this year, resulting in a total of 11 students participating in the summer 2018 program. 

“The matching from all the colleges indicates the robust research activity across the University related to cardiovascular disease,” said Manning. “More importantly, these funds will increase the number of opportunities for undergraduate students to perform summer research.”

The 2018 STCSI runs from May 29 through August 3. Undergraduates who are interested in participating in next year’s STCSI can find more information, including program requirements, at http://bme.psu.edu/STCSI/.

Last Updated April 26, 2018