Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Holds Conference to Tackle One of Nation’s Leading Health Problems

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Rob Gourdie, director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Center for Vascular and Heart Research (back row, second from right), with the day’s poster presentation winners: (back row, from left) Mason Wheeler, Meghan Sedovy, and Eric Mensah; and (front row, from left) Rachel Padget, Kenneth Young, and Shreya Yedla. Photo by Matt Chittum for Virginia Tech.

Scientific collaboration can be born of something as simple as a conversation between researchers chatting in an elevator.

The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC Center for Vascular and Heart Research wanted to accelerate those conversations, so the center’s eight research team leaders organized their first retreat to catalyze collaborations.

The daylong event at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center and on the research institute campus included presentations by the research teams about their lab’s key techniques, competencies, and equipment.

“I’m sure there were people sitting there thinking, ‘Ah, there’s a reason to collaborate right there,’” said Rob Gourdie, Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund Eminent Scholar in Heart Reparative Medicine Research and the center’s director. “We know collaborations are happening already, but when you have information about each lab’s strengths and interests presented to you in a concentrated manner, then you increase your chances of seeing opportunities.”

The center’s principal investigators include Gourdie and faculty members John ChappellScott JohnstoneJessica PflegerSteve PoelzingYassine SassiJames Smyth, and Junco Warren.

The retreat concluded with a juried poster presentation by trainees in the center’s labs. Winners of the poster judging included:

  • First place: Kenneth Young, a medical and doctoral student, Smyth lab (co-mentored by Samy Lamouille).
  • Second place (tie): Rachel Padget, research associate, Smyth lab; and Meghan Sedovy, graduate student, Johnstone lab.
  • Third place: Shreya Yedla, undergraduate student, Warren lab.
  • Honorable mentions: Eric Mensah, research assistant, Sassi lab; and Mason Wheeler, graduate student, Pfleger lab.

– John Pastor