American Heart Association Undergraduate Summer Research Experience

The American Heart Association Summer Training Program in Basic and Translational Cardiovascular Research for Undergraduate Students aims to encourage students from all disciplines to consider research careers.

This institutional training program targets undergraduate college students with the goal to perform cardiovascular-related research. Cutting-edge therapies require modern technology as well as dedicated and innovative researchers. Housed in the UW-Madison Cardiovascular Research Center (CVRC), the program has faculty sponsors who are not only experts in the field but all have a solid track record of producing successful scientists.

Collaboratively, we will provide a 10-week training experience for undergraduate trainees in laboratories that address diseases including:

  • cardiac arrhythmia
  • heart failure
  • myocardial regeneration
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • valvular disease

On the last day of the training period, we will celebrate trainees’ completion of the program with a “mini symposium.” All student trainees, their sponsors, and the graduate students and/or postdocs who mentored student trainees will gather to recognize trainees’ achievement through their presentations.

Support and benefits

  • $6,000 stipend

    (Stipends will be disbursed in accordance with UW-Madison payment guidelines and will be included in year-end reporting documentation.)

  • 10 week research experience
  • $3,000 travel stipend to be used to attend a conference with their sponsor

Strongly encouraged to apply

  • Individuals with disabilities. Accommodations are available. For more information please visit the McBurney Disability Resource Center website.
  • Individuals from low-income backgrounds OR who are the first in their family to attend college.
  • Students who attend small institutions without broad research facilities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Student must be classified at the junior or senior academic status at the time of award activation, or may complete the fellowship immediately following graduation.
  • Student must have been enrolled full-time in the previous Spring semester and/or a recent graduate of an undergraduate degree program at a four-year college or university.
  • 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.
  • Students are not required to reside in the U.S. for any period of time before applying for American Heart Association funding.

Application Requirements

  1. Resume
  2. Letter of Recommendation – if you have prior research experience, it will be helpful to have a letter from your research mentor
  3. College transcript; unofficial transcripts are acceptable
  4. Four short personal essays (3900 character maximum per essay)
    • Future goals and career plans: Describe how your participation in a summer research program at UW-Madison will contribute to your future goals and career plans.
    • Research area(s): Which area(s) of research are of interest to you and why? Include your reasons for applying to the UW-Madison summer program; you may include specific UW-Madison faculty members, programs, facilities or resources.
    • Research experience: Although previous research experience is not required to be considered for participation in our summer program, please describe any past research experience. This may include research as part of a course if you do not have other research experiences.
    • How have your background and life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges motivated your decision to pursue a research opportunity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison?

Program Sponsors

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Lee Eckhardt, MD and PhD, Professor in Medicine

Dr. Eckhardt is a physician-scientist with a long-standing interest in the prevention of sudden death from arrhythmic etiologies. She has dedicated her research and clinical career to the prevention of sudden cardiac death (SCD), a major cause of death in the United States. Dr. Eckhardt’s translational research lab is inspired by the Cardiac Inherited Arrhythmia Clinic at the University of Wisconsin where she and her colleagues in Cardiology treat individuals and families with a wide range of Inherited Arrhythmia Syndromes associated with sudden death. Her lab studies an important ionic current associated with sudden death syndromes called IK1, focusing on the cellular dynamics, regulation, and macromolecular complex of IK1, and the contribution to inherited and acquired arrhythmia syndromes.

Timothy Kamp, MD and PhD, Professor in Medicine, Cell and Regenerative Biology

The Kamp lab focuses on understanding basic mechanisms of arrhythmias and strategies for cardiac regeneration of the failing heart. Human pluripotent stem cells are a central element of the research in Dr. Kamp’s lab. These master stem cells can differentiate into all the major cell types present in the heart providing unlimited quantities of human heart cells for research as well as therapeutic applications. The Kamp lab has pioneered this technology developing ever improving methods for the robust production of cardiomyocytes from human pluripotent stem cells as well as other cell populations such as cardiac fibroblasts.

Bo Liu, PhD, Professor in Cell and Regenerative Biology

The goal of Dr. Liu’s lab is to investigate pathophysiology of vascular diseases and translate bench findings to new therapies and implantable devices. The Liu lab utilizes interdisciplinary approaches that combine in vitro molecular and biochemical methodologies with transgenic, gene knockout/editing, multi-omics as well as surgical technologies. Their recent discoveries include proteomics of extracellular vesicles, single cell transcriptomics of vascular tissues, posttranslational regulatory mechanisms underlying cell death in disease, cell-cell communications, and development of 3D printed vascular devices.

Gail Robertson, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience

Work in the Robertson laboratory focuses on the root causes of catastrophic cardiac arrhythmias and therapeutic approaches for their treatment. Specifically, studies examine biophysical mechanisms disrupted by disease-causing mutations using voltage-clamp technologies in both heterologous expression systems and cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC-CMs), an experimental “heart in a dish.” The Robertson lab uses single-chain antibody fragments to probe ion channel function; they develop the same fragments into drugs to treat arrhythmia by counteracting the action potential prolongation associated with long QT syndrome, a leading cause of sudden cardiac death.

Francisco Alvarado, PharmD and PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine

The goal of Dr. Alvarado’s research is to understand the mechanisms underlying heart disease and to develop safe and effective treatments that improve the life of patients. His primary interest is the regulation of cardiac ion channels with emphasis on diseases arising from their dysfunction. Ongoing research explores how ryanodine receptor 2 (RyR2), a major calcium-release channel, is regulated in the healthy heart and contributes to the onset and progression of heart disease. In addition, Dr. Alvarado’s laboratory explores potential therapeutic strategies that can modulate RyR2 function. His laboratory uses unique animal models and a combination of several state-of-the-art techniques that span from the single molecule to the whole heart, including single channel recordings, radioligand assays, mutagenesis, western blotting, confocal imaging, cellular electrophysiology, isolated heart perfusions, among others.