News from LSU Health Shreveport

CURIOUS student

Cardiovascular Undergraduate Research Initiative fOr Underrepresented Students (CURIOUS) is a summer program at LSU Health Shreveport funded by an R25 Research Education Program grant (R25HL147665) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). This summer research program is hosted by the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences (CCDS) and is designed to provide an educational and hands-on research opportunity for underrepresented undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing research as part of their scientific or clinical career goals. For eight weeks, the group of selected students participated in intensive cardiovascular research that focused on cardiac, vascular and neurovascular research areas.

CURIOUS students worked on their research projects alongside an LSU Health Shreveport faculty mentor and presented their findings at a poster session at the end of the program. In addition, students participated in weekly enrichment activities. They learned cardiovascular basics and state-of-the-art research techniques, took lectures and discussion classes with graduate students on the responsible conduct of research, and started planning for their graduate education with career development and financial advice. They also had “Life Lunches” with LSUHS students, faculty and staff. An exciting opportunity was the chance to meet and talk about their projects and career goals with a nationally recognized cardiovascular researcher, Dr. Russell DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D., Beatrice and Miguel Elias Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science & Professor of Molecular Genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Top students will be invited back for a second year to continue their research and participate in more advanced enrichment activities, and 1-2 students will be selected to attend, and present at, a national research conference with their mentor.

“The NIH is putting a focus on developing a diverse new generation of cardiovascular researchers,” said Dr. Karen Stokes, CURIOUS Principle Investigator and Assistant Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences. “Through CURIOUS we can provide research experiences in cardiovascular diseases to students from underrepresented groups, and encourage their career goals. It is also an opportunity to share the cutting-edge cardiovascular research we have here in Shreveport, and to improve awareness of our excellent academic programs. We hope that one day we’ll see our CURIOUS students back on campus as LSU Health Shreveport medical, graduate, or allied health students continuing to pursue their careers in healthcare and research.”

Forty students from 18 colleges applied to participate in the inaugural CURIOUS program. Ten students were selected and represent six colleges – University of Louisiana Monroe, LSU-Baton Rouge, Northwestern State University, Grambling State University, University of Dallas, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Each student was provided with a stipend, housing, and transportation costs to and from LSUHS for the duration of their stay in Shreveport.

“We’re excited to move forward and continue developing this program over the next four years. We plan to recruit from colleges all over the country and show the nation how strong our cardiovascular research is here at LSU Health Shreveport,” said Dr. Stokes.

This is the first time that LSU Health Shreveport has received an R25 grant, which will support CURIOUS for a total of five years.

“The goal of the CURIOUS program is strongly aligned with the teaching and research missions of LSU Health Shreveport in fostering the next generation of biomedical scientists and clinicians. The CURIOUS program is the first of its kind in Louisiana and will provide unique career opportunities for a wide range of students,” said Dr. Chris Kevil, Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at LSU Health Shreveport. 

What is an R25 grant?

The NIH states that the purposes of an R25 grant, or Research Education Program, is to support research education activities that:
(a) Complement and/or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs;
(b) Enhance the diversity of the biomedical, behavioral and clinical research workforce;
(c) Help recruit individuals with specific specialty or disciplinary backgrounds to research careers in biomedical, behavioral and clinical sciences; or
(d) Foster a better understanding of biomedical, behavioral and clinical research and its implications.

Principal Investigator:

Karen Y. Stokes, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology
Assistant Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences


J. Steven Alexander, Ph.D.
Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology

Felicity N.E. Gavins, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology

Sumitra Miriyala, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Cellular Biology and Anatomy

Matthew Woolard, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology

Meet the Students:

Janee' Charles
Hometown: Jennings, Louisiana
Rising Senior at Northwestern State University
Major – Biology; Minor- Chemistry
Career Plan: Cardiologist
Mentored by Dr. Hugh Nam, Ph.D. 
“Investigating neurogranin mediated nitric oxide signaling in the cardiomyocytes”

Kaylynn Gruber
Hometown: Munster, Indiana
Rising Junior at University of Louisiana Monroe
Major: Biology; Minors: Military Science and Spanish
Career Plan: Medical Doctor in the Army and a translator; considering pursuing a Masters in Public Health
Mentored by Dr. Karen Stokes, Ph.D.
“Investigating the potential for N-acetylcysteine to protect against diabetes–induced vascular dysfunction”

Alessandra Gutierrez
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Rising Sophomore at University of Dallas
Major: Biochemistry
Career Plan: M.D./Ph.D. and to volunteer in clinics in impoverished areas, or join Doctors Without Borders
Mentored by Dr. Chris Kevil, Ph.D.
“Investigating how oxidative stress and hypoxia/reoxygenation alters reactive sulfur species formation of per- and polysulfides in aortic endothelial cells”

Harry Hooker, III
Hometown: DeRidder, Louisiana
Rising Junior at Grambling State University
Major: Chemistry; Minor: Biology
Career Plan: Pharmacist
Mentored by Dr. Christopher Pattillo, Ph.D.
“Investigating different glutathione measurements in macrophages and the importance of glutathione levels in macrophage polarization”

Mariah MacKinnon
Hometown: Durham, North Carolina
Rising Senior at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Major: Bioengineering; Minor: Biology
Career Plan: Medical Doctor or Physical Therapist
Mentored by Dr. Sumitra Miriyala, Ph.D.
“MnTBuOE-2-PyP5+ has a protective effect on doxorubicin induced cardiac dysfunction, which attributed to its antioxidant, anti-apoptotic effects of inhibiting the RhoA/Rho kinase (ROCK) signaling pathway”

Azariya McClendon
Hometown: Ringgold, Louisiana
Rising Senior at Grambling State University
Major: Biology/Psychology
Career Plan: Obstetrician/Gynecologist
Mentored by Dr. David Krzywanski, Ph.D.
“Examining how NNT’s regulation of mitochondrial redox tone impacts inflammation in atherosclerosis”

Jordan Sensat
Hometown: Mamou, Louisiana
Rising Sophomore at Northwestern State University
Major: Pre-Medicine, Biology
Career Plan: Anesthesiologist
Mentored by Diana Cruz-Topete, Ph.D.
“Development of a co-culture system to study the interactions between adipose tissue and cardiomyocytes in vitro”

Barbara Thompson
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
Rising Senior at Grambling State University
Major: Biology and Mathematics/Physics
Career Plan: Cardiovascular Surgeon
Mentored by Dr. A. Wayne Orr, Ph.D.
“Investigating the regulation of mitochondrial dynamics in vascular cells by extracellular matrix composition”

Mallory Von Lotten
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Rising Junior at LSU in Baton Rouge
Major: Sport Administration, Pre-Medicine; Minor: Biology
Career Plan: Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician
Mentored by Dr. Md. Shenuarin Bhuiyan, Ph.D.
“Role autophagy in methamphetamine associated cardiomyopathy”

Caretia Washington
Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana
Rising Senior at LSU in Baton Rouge
Major: Microbiology; Minor: Criminology (Sociology)
Career Path: Pediatrician
Mentored by Dr. J. Steven Alexander, Ph.D.
“Development of a new endothelial permeability assay”

Summer Programs - CURIOUS Group

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