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Jorge Santini


Hola! I am from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. I recently graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez where I obtained two Bachelor of Science degrees, one in Industrial Biotechnology and another in Chemical Engineering. As an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to participate in two summer research internships at the University of Wisconsin Madison. As a result I gained a strong interest in research and love for the Midwest. In my first internship, I worked under Dr. Troy Runge, where I collaborated on a project that was part of the Accelerated Renewable Energy (ARE) Consortium, whose goals are to mitigate the environmental impact of dairy manure by converting it into biofuels and bio-based products. We developed an accurate and cost efficient method to determine protein concentration in cow manure using the Bradford method. As for my second internship, I had the opportunity to work under Dr. Naomi Chesler, where I studied the physiology of the right ventricle (RV) with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). I developed a custom-made MATLAB code to process and evaluate pressure-volume waveforms of the cardiac cycle. Today I am a Discovery PREP scholar, working under the mentorship of Dr. Paul Janssen. One of the main research projects in the lab is to better understand how heart rate impacts the mechanical properties of the heart to make it contract stronger and faster. In human heart failure, most patients suffer from a kinetic dysfunction, where the speed of the contraction and relaxation is impaired. Previous studies in the laboratory show a difference in relaxation kinetics between non-failing and failing hearts. The non-failing hearts show faster relaxation kinetics than those of failing hearts. We intend to answer the reason behind the difference in relaxation kinetics between failing and non-failing hearts by performing a series of experiments with human intact and skinned (isolated myofilaments) cardiac muscles. One of my projects is to study if there is any direct correlation between the time it takes the myocardium to relax and calcium (Ca2+) sensitivity in failing and non-failing hearts. Second, we will assess the impact of different concentrations of energy metabolites on Ca2+ sensitivity, relaxation time and cross-bridge cycling kinetics in cardiac myofilaments. Fulfilling these aims will help us better understand if there is any correlation between slow relaxation kinetics in failing hearts due to impaired function of cross-bridge cycling machinery and the rate-limiting steps of cross-bridge cycling kinetics in function of energy metabolites concentration.

Outside of the program, I enjoy learning about other cultures and new languages. One of my personal goals is to speak fluently at least five languages. I also enjoy traveling, cooking and spending time with friends. Once I successfully complete the PREP program I plan to attend graduate school and receive a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences. My research interests include cardiovascular physiology, tissue engineering and biomaterials.

What's next?  After receiving several offers from top tier universities, I've decided to pursue my PhD at the University of Florida.