Two Rice bioengineering grad students win American Heart Association fellowships

Two Rice bioengineering grad students win American Heart Association fellowships

Special to Rice News

Rice University bioengineering graduate students Dan Gould and Hubert Tseng are the recipients of competitive predoctoral fellowships from the American Heart Association’s South Central Affiliate.

The fellowships, which include a $25,000 stipend for one to two years of research, are designed to initiate careers in cardiovascular and stroke research. Gould and Tseng are among 14 graduate students from across Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas to receive the award.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and adult disability in the U.S. and affects more than 700,000 Americans each year. Patient recovery and survival depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is damaged due to lack of nutrients and oxygen.


Gould is in his third year of graduate studies at Rice and an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Rice-Baylor Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). His research in Associate Professor Mary Dickinson’s laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) involves the use of neural stem cells and novel scaffold materials for implantation into the damaged cortex of stoke patients to stimulate the repair of injured tissue. Dickinson is also an adjunct associate professor in bioengineering at Rice, and a large portion of Gould’s work has been performed and supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) Quantum grant in neuro-vascular regeneration – a highly collaborative project with Rice Professor Jennifer West.

”One critical aspect to stroke recovery is the early development of adequate blood vessel growth,” Gould said. ”My research seeks to determine which growth factors are needed within the scaffolds to work with neural stem cells and promote blood vessel response and growth of replacement tissues.”


Tseng is a fourth-year graduate student in Associate Professor Jane Grande-Allen’s Integrative Matrix Mechanics Laboratory. He studies heart valves from both material and mechanical perspectives.

Each year about 5 million Americans are diagnosed with valvular heart disease. According to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, about 95,000 open-heart surgeries are performed annually for patients with severe narrowing of the heart valve. Conventional heart valve replacement is a well-established procedure; however, replacements typically fail within 10-15 years.

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”One underappreciated aspect of aortic valve replacement design is the layered structure of the native tissue,” Tseng said. ”Each layer of aortic valve tissue has different structures: One is very organized with collagen, another is gelatinous and the other is elastic. These three layers work synergistically to keep up with the demands of the beating heart.”

Tseng’s aim is to design an anisotropic composite-laminate scaffold for aortic valve tissue engineering that matches native material properties. He will use the fellowship funds to investigate different hydrogel designs that are both biocompatible and can be tuned to have different mechanical properties.

— Shawn Hutchins is a staff writer in the Department of Bioengineering.

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