Cardiovascular Disease Research Cluster (CDRC)

Cardiovascular Disease Research Cluster (CDRC) - Coordinator, Nalini Santanam, PhD, MPH, FAHA

Cardiovascular disease is still the number one killer in the U.S. and world over. Its rates are particularly higher in the Appalachian region, including WV. West Virginia ranks among the top three states in incidences of cardiometabolic diseases (cardiovascular disease, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes). The overall mission of the CDRC is to seek knowledge in understanding the causes and consequences of cardiovascular diseases (coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart failure and thrombosis), and identify potential preventive (lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise) and therapeutic strategies to lower incidence in the Appalachian region and the U.S. This cluster brings together scientists, clinicians, academicians and students interested in research, treatment, teaching and learning about these chronic diseases.


Research Faculty

Research Interests 

Ji Bihl, Ph.D.  Cerebrovascular Diseases and Diabetes
Wei Li, MD, Ph.D. Platelet Function in Thrombosis and Atherosclerosis 
Richard D. Egleton, Ph.D.  Stroke, Blood Brain Barrier Dysfunction 
Nalini Santanam, Ph.D.   Women's Lifestyle on Atherosclerosis/CAD
Sandrine Pierre, Ph.D. Cardiac Ischemia 
Jinju Wang, Ph.D.  Exercise-Regulated Exosomes in Vascular Diseases
Alejandro Q. Nato, Jr., Ph.D. Computational and Statistical Genetics; Bioinformatics; Complex Diseases
Ellen Thompson, MD Heart Failure, Coronary Artery Disease
Todd Gress, MD, MPH Cardiometabolic Diseases
Paulette Wehner. MD  Heart Failure, Women's Health
Required Research Cluster Courses 
Course Number Course Name Credit Hours
PHS 666 Physiology of the Cell 3
BMS 665 CDRC Colloquium (x3) 3

Qualifying Exam (Candidacy)

  • Students are required to complete the candidacy exam within a year of their choice of the advisor where the student intends on completing their Ph.D. work. 

Written and Oral Exam 

  • Course work 
  • After written exam, the student is required to write a grant in the style of an NIH or American Heart Association, Predoctoral grant proposal format on either the student’s research project or another topic. 
  • The grant must be submitted within two (2) months of completion of the written exam to the PhD committee. 
  • Oral examination is a defense of this grant application.


  • Details of the completion of the dissertation and oral defense ​of the dissertation are provided in the graduate catalog. 

Other CDRC Activities: 

  • The students are advised to conduct an annual committee meeting and required to submit the signed research progress forms to the graduate program
  • Students are required to present their work at the BMR research retreat and Marshall Medical School research day.
  • The students are strongly urged to attend one national scientific meeting and present the results of their research.

American Heart Association

Undergraduate Summer Internship Research Program

The program begins on May 28, 2024 - Ends on July 30, 2024

Application Deadline: February 21, 2024


Program Summary

The purpose of the American Heart Association-funded undergraduate research training program at Marshall University is to encourage promising undergraduate students from all disciplines, including women and members of minority groups underrepresented in the sciences, to consider research careers while supporting the highest quality scientific investigation broadly related to cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Interns participating in the program will perform nine weeks of graduate-level research in the laboratory of the Marshall University School of Medicine faculty. Participants will receive formal research training while expanding their learning experience through workshops, seminars on current topics, mentoring, and the use of state-of-the-art core facilities.

The summer research program will take place from May 28th to July 30th, 2024. A stipend of $6,000 (pre-tax and fringe benefits) will be provided to each intern for the nine-week experience. Interns will present their research at the WV Summer Research Symposium on the last week of the program. Interns will also be required to present their work at a national/international conference (such as the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions) by December 2024; travel expenses of up to $3,000 will be covered.



  • Classified at the academic level as a junior or senior by August 2024. (If you are entering medical school in the fall of 2024, you are not eligible.)
  • Academic record, particularly in science courses.
  • Past or present research experience.
  • Stated interest in cardiovascular research and career goals, and why would like to participate in the program.
  • Recommendations of two faculty members at the applicant’s institution and others, if relevant.

Faculty mentors have provided projects that will introduce students to contemporary research broadly related to cardiovascular disease and stroke.

On the application, you will be asked to review the mentor’s directory, list your choice of mentors in order of preference (#1 being your top choice) and why their topics are of interest to you. Your choices will serve as a guide for a mentor assignment. The directory of mentors and their research projects can be accessed in the Mentors Directory.

To be considered complete, your application must contain the following:

  • Completed application form (no fee)
  • Transcripts from all institutions of higher learning attended
  • Two letters of recommendation from professors of scientific disciplines
    • Please indicate the names, titles, and phone numbers of two professors who have agreed to write letters of recommendation on your behalf.  Please have them send their letters to Dr. Nalini Santanam (address at the bottom of the form) before February 21, 2024. Letters can be sent electronically if desired; send them to


Application Deadline

The online application and supporting documents are due on or before February 21, 2024. Transcripts and letters of recommendation are to be mailed or e-mailed to Dr. Nalini Santanam:

Mailing address:
Dr. Nalini Santanam 
Department of Biomedical Sciences
1700 3rd Ave, BBSC 435
Huntington, WV-25755

For more information:
Please contact Dr. Nalini Santanam at (304)-696-7321,