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maria Esteve-Gassent
Maria Esteve-Gassent

UTSA Spotlight: Maria D. Esteve-Gassent awarded American Heart Association fellowship to study Lyme carditis

By Kris Rodrugez
Public Affairs Specialist

(Aug. 27, 2008)--Maria D. Esteve-Gassent, a post-doctoral researcher in UTSA's South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID), has been awarded a two-year fellowship from the American Heart Association (AHA) for her research on Lyme carditis, an infection of the heart caused by the bacteria in ticks associated with Lyme disease.

The $100,000 AHA fellowship, the first for a post doctoral researcher in the UTSA Department of Biology, covers Esteve-Gassent's salary, laboratory research expenses and travel expenses associated with mandatory conferences and trainings. At the conferences, she will provide updates on her Lyme carditis research.

"This is a great achievement for UTSA in terms of money and prestige," said Esteve-Gassent. "As a public database, anyone searching for information regarding research on Lyme carditis will find that UTSA was one of the few universities across the country awarded a fellowship from the American Heart Association."

As a member of the STCEID research team, Esteve-Gassent works in the laboratory of Janakiram Seshu, UTSA assistant professor of biology, where she is studying Lyme disease, which affects 23,000 people annually. The laboratory is on the third floor of the Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering Building on the 1604 Campus.

For Esteve-Gassent, the fellowship holds a special meaning. It's her first funding mechanism since coming to the United States in 2005 from Spain where she developed vaccines to protect commercial fisheries against economically debilitating fish diseases.

"When I first learned I received the award I was very excited, because in the beginning, everything was so new to me," said Esteve-Gassent. "I had to learn how to apply for grants and figure out how the process all works."

With her new funding in place, Esteve-Gassent will continue as a post-doctoral researcher at UTSA for the next two years. Once that's complete, she'll consider her options to strike out on her own and become an independent researcher.

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