The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC received an American Heart Association grant that will allow students interested in cardiovascular research the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities as part of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.

The new cardioSURF gives rising juniors and seniors the opportunity to participate in high-level experiential research in cardiovascular translational biology under the mentorship of the institute’s Roanoke-based faculty research team leaders. The 10-week program, which runs May 22-July 28, is a 40-hour-per-week commitment in which students are provided a generous stipend and housing.

“We’re looking for students interested in pursuing research careers in the cardiovascular space,” said James Smyth, who spearheads the program. Smyth is an associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute who studies cardiomyopathy at the molecular level and investigates therapies to help restore normal cardiac function to diseased hearts. He recently recieved a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to discover why viruses that normally infect our lungs can turn deadly when they infect the heart.

“Students will be assigned a mentor in one of our institute’s labs, where they will undertake an individual hypothesis-driven cardiovascular research project,” Smyth said. 

They also will participate in sessions on professional development, ethics, and science policy and workshops on imaging techniques, from scanning the vasculature in their own brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging to microscopy of living heart cells to electron microscopy, which reveals biological structure at the nanoscale. “This work is taking advantage of the vast array of imaging technologies we have at the institute that allow us to battle heart disease and stroke. They get the full breadth within the program.”

Applications for the cardioSURF program are now open. All application materials are due by Feb. 14. Completed application packages include the following:

  • General information about the applicant
  • Three short essays detailing: experience participating in independent research, the applicant’s interest in translational cardiovascular research, and what the applicant hopes to gain from participating in the summer fellowship and how it might contribute to their career
  • A current unofficial transcript and GPA
  • A letter of recommendation from a current or former faculty member at the applicant’s institution.
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