Mao Receives American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship

June 11, 2013 

Durham NC — Helen Mao, a graduate student in the Duke University Program in Genetics and Genomics at Duke University Medical Center, has received an American Heart Association (AHA) Predoctoral Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to help students initiate careers in cardiovascular and stroke research by providing research assistance and training.

Mao is a third year graduate student and works in the laboratory of Debra Silver, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Mao’s research project focuses on elucidating how members of an RNA surveillance complex, the EJC, regulates embryonic neurogenesis and brain development. The project aims at understanding the regulation of brain development on a cellular and molecular basis. One important part of her project is to identify candidate genes regulated by the EJC via RNA immunoprecipitation and deep sequencing. The EJC members have been implicated in various human brain development disorders. The project will shed light into the requirements of RNA regulation in pathogenesis of human neurodevelopmental disorders.

“Helen’s project is very exciting, and we believe her findings will give us unique insight into how the brain develops, as well as EJC function and neurodevelopmental disorders,” says Silver. “With a strong interest in RNA biology and brain development, she is the ideal student to pursue this study. We are thrilled to have the support of the American Heart Association for her graduate studies.”


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The American Heart Association (AHA) is a non-profit organization in the United States that fosters appropriate cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke. It is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. The American Heart Association is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is: “Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.”