Ph.D. Student Earns American Heart Association Fellowship for Stem Cell Research

 Plansky Hoang '15

November 20, 2018

Plansky Hoang ’15, a graduate research assistant in Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, has been awarded a highly competitive and prestigious predoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association. Hoang is a researcher in the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute—working in the System Tissue Engineering & Morphogenesis (STEM) Lab under Zhen Ma, assistant professor and Samuel and Carol Nappi research scholar, and in the Henderson Lab under James H. Henderson, associate professor.

The purpose of the Heart Association’s fellowship is to, “enhance the integrated research and clinical training of promising students matriculated in pre-doctoral or clinical health professional degree training programs and who intend careers as scientists, physician-scientists or other clinician-scientists, or related careers aimed at improving global cardiovascular health.”

Hoang was selected based on her research with Ma in the STEM Lab in which she is developing an in vitro model that tests various medications on developing heart cells to contribute to the prevention of congenital heart defects. Approximately 40,000 children are born with a heart defect in the United States every year. Hoang’s work will help determine which drugs—when taken by pregnant women—may be harmful to the heart health of developing embryos. She evaluates the effect of drugs that treat everything from acne medication to cancer treatments.

“In the past two years, Plansky has proven to be a mature and capable biomedical researcher with strong scientific curiosity and acumen. Without Plansky’s great effort, I would never have foreseen that my research program at Syracuse University could be as functional and productive in such a short period,” said Ma. “I believe this award will help her navigate the transition from a mentored graduate student to an independent biomedical engineer and build a successful academic career in the future.”

Before her work in Ma’s and Henderson’s labs, Hoang earned her bachelor’s degree in bioengineering from ECS in 2015. During her time at SU, she has also served as a teaching assistant for engineering mathematics, an undergraduate researcher in Professor Dacheng Ren’s Biofilm Engineering Laboratory lab, and an academic excellence workshop facilitator for the College’s Student Success Office.

Henderson said, “Having had the opportunity to teach Plansky as an undergraduate at SU and to now co-advise her during her Ph.D. studies, it has been a pleasure to watch her develop from an inquisitive student to an independent researcher now competing successfully for funding to support cutting-edge research that promises to advance human health.”