Two Kinesiology students awarded American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowships for Cardiovascular Research

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Andrew Oneglia and Damsara Nandadeva from Department of Kinesiology

Two PhD students in Kinesiology have defied the odds and each recently received a highly competitive American Heart Association (AHA) pre-doctoral fellowship to continue their cardiovascular research.

Andrew Oneglia is researching cardiac dysfunction and is a member of the Applied Physiology and Advanced Imaging Laboratory, mentoring under Dr. Michael Nelson, lab director and associate professor, Kinesiology.

Damsara Nandadeva is focused on racial differences and long-term effects of COVID-19 on vascular function in young healthy adults and is a member of the Human Neural Cardiovascular Control Lab, mentoring under Dr. Paul Fadel, lab director, associate dean for research, and professor, Kinesiology.

The AHA predoctoral fellowship is open to those enrolled in a post-baccalaureate clinical health science doctoral degree program, who seek research training. The fellowship’s purpose is to enhance the integrated research and clinical training of promising students who intend to pursue careers as scientists, physician-scientists or other clinician-scientists, or related careers aimed at improving global cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and brain health.

About Andrew Oneglia

Andrew Oneglia, Department of Kinesiology“I’m excited to receive this fellowship. The AHA’s focus to prevent heart disease through research aligns with the aims of what our work in the lab is trying to solve and what I focus on specifically,” shared Oneglia. “I am humbled and extremely grateful to receive this award, which will allow me to focus 100% on my research studies for the remainder of my graduate training.”

Oneglia received his undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and came to The University of Texas at Arlington to join the APIA lab, where he could focus on research in cardiovascular disease and metabolism.

“Andrew is most deserving of this prestigious award. He is incredibly hardworking, thoughtful and a pleasure to have in the lab,” shared Dr. Nelson.

Oneglia’s research focuses on ectopic (i.e. being in an abnormal place) fat deposition in the heart and the role that sex hormones may have on this relationship. Ultimately, Oneglia hopes to extend our current understanding of specific mechanisms driving heart disease.

“I think I have some great options when I graduate, but no matter what I want to continue research, as there is a lot more that we need to understand about the heart,” said Oneglia.

About Damsara Nandadeva

Damsara Nandadeva, Department of Kinesiology“Receiving this grant is a great honor. Now that I am funded and have a dedicated research project that will be my dissertation, this really helps set me up for my long-term goal of being an independent researcher one day,” shared Nandadeva. “I’m hopeful this fellowship can help me develop new collaborations and keep my career moving forward.”

An international student from Sri Lanka, Nandadeva received her undergraduate degree in medicine and masters degree in exercise physiology from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. She came to UTA in the fall of 2018 to get her PhD and learn from and conduct research in the field of neural control of the cardiovascular system in health and disease with Dr. Fadel.

“This is a major accomplishment for Damsara and her progress as a researcher” shared Dr. Fadel. “The support from AHA will allow Damsara to address important questions regarding the potential long-term impact of having COVID-19 on cardiovascular disease risk.”

Nandadeva’s research focuses on assessing vascular function and neural control of the vascular system in healthy young adults who have had COVID-19. The project also will examine racial differences in effects of COVID-19 on the vascular system. These studies are important to understanding the long-term effects COVID-19 may be having in an age group that is significantly affected by COVID-19 but limited information is available, and will provide important information on future cardiovascular disease risk in this population.

“This fellowship is bringing me one step closer to my long-term career goals, and provides the opportunity to engage in very important areas of cardiovascular research,” said Nandadeva.