Spending the summer studying rodent tissue and DNA may not sound glamorous, but biology senior Angela Abouassi’s research into heart development this year put her in the middle of the cutting-edge biomedical research being done by one of the University of Houston’s most renowned lab teams.
Abouassi is one of many College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ undergraduates engaged in the sort of hands-on research typically associated with graduate work. She was one of 11 NSM students who participated this year in UH’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), which provides the most promising students with an intense 10-week research experience under the mentorship of faculty members.
Abouassi worked under David Stewart, a research assistant professor in biochemistry who is part of the research group headed by Robert Schwartz, Cullen Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry. Schwartz and his team are pioneering new treatments for heart patients.
Studying heart development in mice embryos, Abouassi focused on the exact function of a specific gene and its function in embryonic heart development. Such research could ultimately result in the early detection of heart defects in infants.
She presented her findings in October at UH’s annual Undergraduate Research Day. Abouassi will graduate next spring and plans to attend medical school. She also wants to pursue a master’s in public health. Toiling 20-30 hours a week in the lab and becoming a trusted part of a cutting-edge research team was an invaluable experience, Abouassi said.