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American Heart Association and Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship


The American Heart Association Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC cardioSURF program is a 10-week long summer program that gives students the opportunity to participate in hypothesis-driven independent research at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke, Virginia. Students will participate in a weekly workshop series to provide hands-on experience in the cutting edge imaging technologies housed within the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute to understand appropriate application of each technology in cardiovascular research. This program encompasses a full-time, 40-hour week schedule and supports cardioSURF students with a $6,000 stipend. Housing will also be provided at no cost to students who need it at The Patrick Henry, a walkable distance from the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

The cardioSURF program’s objectives are:

  1. To expose undergraduate students to the broad scope of visualization technologies available for interrogating cardiovascular biology
  2. To provide hands-on experience within the multidisciplinary environment of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute where we apply cutting-edge imaging technologies
  3. To expose a diverse cohort of students to experiential learning early in their careers and foster long-term careers in STEM and cardiovascular fields
  4. To develop creative problem solving skills and train students in appropriate application of techniques, experimental design, and data analysis
  5. To provide professional development training with a focus on effective scientific communication

In addition to hands-on research projects, AHA Fralin Biomedical Research Institute cardioSURF students will participate in:

  • Weekly workshops by Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Faculty on each imaging technology
  • Courses on preparing for a future career in science
  • Mentoring on science communication and presentation skills
  • The Virginia Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium
  • Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium
  • Peer mentoring from Virginia Tech graduate students
  • Social and cultural activities with fellow summer research students


During the 10-week long cardioSURF program, students will participate in a series of educational, research, and social activities.

Experiential learning will be provided first-hand in: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), confocal microscopy, electron microscopy (including serial block-face scanning electron microscopy), super-resolution localization microscopy, and optical mapping (for cardiac tissue). The program takes full advantage of our visualization-intensive research community and the wealth of expertise available in each area. We will teach fundamental principles of each approach while covering advantages, limitations, and appropriate application.


cardioSURF will include courses in general laboratory orientation and safety, data management and record keeping. The group will convene for a 3-hour workshop at the beginning of each week where students will: (i) receive a 45 min presentation from an expert user of a specific imaging technique at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute followed by 15 min student questions and discussion, (ii) participate in a 60-minute tour where they will gain hands-on experience in operating particular instrumentation and acquiring data and, (iii) reconvene to receive sample data sets and instruction on how to analyze as an assignment for the next meeting, discuss previous weeks assignment, and to participate in a 15 min open-discussion of experiences from the past week. Students will receive science writing and communication training and learn how to communicate science to the public. These activities will prepare students for their participation with oral and poster presentations at the Annual Virginia Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium and Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC Undergraduate Symposium. All of these courses will be delivered by faculty at FBRI and are designed to prepare undergraduates for careers in biological research.


All cardioSURF students will perform 10 weeks of full-time, hypothesis-driven independent research in participating laboratories at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. At the end of this period students will deliver presentations at the Annual Virginia Tech Summer Research Symposium and Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC Symposium.

Social Activities

All cardioSURF students will participate in several social activities throughout the 10-week period. This will include pizza parties and ice cream socials, opportunities to meet fellow summer research students, and peer mentoring from graduate students at Virginia Tech. Additionally, there will be activities that take advantage of beautiful Roanoke, a small city nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia.