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PhD Student Awarded Fellowship from American Heart Association

Published March 27, 2013

Virginia Havel, a PhD student in microbiology and immunology, has received an American Heart Association Founders Affiliate predoctoral fellowship designed to help students initiate careers in cardiovascular and stroke research.

The two-year, $44,000 fellowship will help fund research that may identify potential therapeutic targets for infections caused by a pathogenic fungus that causes more than 600,000 deaths a year worldwide.

The fungus, Cryptococcus neoformans, is a contributing factor to mortality in organ transplant patients, such as those receiving heart or lung transplants.

Studying Fungus’ Adaptation to Host Environment

Havel is investigating mRNA degradation, a mechanism C. neoformans uses to adapt to the temperature of its host.

The fungus’ ability to survive in humans is severely compromised when factors involved in the degradation of its mRNA are mutated.

Havel will conduct the research alongside her mentor, John C. Panepinto, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology.