Gregory Hoeker, a Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. student, has been awarded the Caroline P. Ireland Research Travel Scholarship. The award provides funds to graduate students who must travel to an out-of-state location to learn new research techniques required to complete their research projects. The scholarship will allow Hoeker to travel to the University of California-Davis where he will work in the laboratory of Donald Bers, Ph.D. to further on-going joint studies between Dr. Bers and Hoeker’s advisor, Steven Pogwizd, M.D. The work will include training in cardiac myocyte isolation techniques as well as testing various buffer solutions that may allow for preserving cardiac myocytes for future functional experimentation.

The focus of Hoeker’s research, mechanisms of arrhythmias in heart failure, involves the use of cardiac myocytes from scarce or difficult to obtain tissue sources such as experimental animal models of heart disease or failing human hearts.“Typically the use of cardiac myocytes for functional experiments requires that the experiments be performed on the same day as cell isolation,” says Hoeker. “Having the capability to preserve and transport isolated myocytes will increase access to these limited tissue sources and greatly enhance the collaborations between the Bers and Pogwizd labs.”

The Ireland Research Travel Awards are funded by an endowment established at UAB by Caroline Ireland and the late Charles W. Ireland, and by new resources allocated to the Graduate School from the Provost’s office.“The Ireland research travel awards are strategically targeted to provide students with unique and valuable opportunities,” says Dr. Jeffrey Engler, associate dean for academic affairs for the the UAB Graduate School. “The research travel scholarship, which awards a maximum of $1,000, is not designed to send someone to a professional meeting; it’s designed to enable a student to capture an educational opportunity that doesn’t exist here at UAB. These travel scholarships are highly competitive and provide elite educational experiences that enrich not only our students, but UAB as a whole.”