The American Heart Association (AHA) recently awarded its highly competitive Predoctoral Fellowship to Claire Trotter, a PhD candidate in Applied Physiology. The $32,036 fellowship award allows her to finish the final year of her doctoral program with a stipend and project support for her research.
Trotter’s area of inquiry is multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease characterized by the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which alters their normal signaling patterns. MS affects nearly one million Americans, and 75 percent of them are women.
Her dissertation, Alterations to Cardiovascular Control in Females with Multiple Sclerosis at Rest and During Stress, looks at how women with the disease may be more vulnerable to cardiovascular problems than healthy women. “We know that females with MS are at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease in comparison to healthy females and to male counterparts who have MS,” Trotter said.
“I am specifically interested in studying how blood pressure may be regulated differently in females with MS compared to females who do not have MS. My hope is that we can identify targets that can be treated to prevent the development of cardiovascular disease.”
Trotter has been researching MS since she was an SMU undergraduate and worked with Associate Professor Scott Davis, director of the Integrative Physiology Laboratory. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for Claire and well-deserved as a graduate student researcher. She has been exceptional in every way,” Davis said. “This award not only sets up Claire for continued success in her academic career but it is also an important foundation that will impact the potential for future research funding in my laboratory as well as training opportunities for graduate students that follow Claire.”
After graduating from SMU in 2016, she pursued a Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and returned to SMU for her PhD.
In addition to the AHA fellowship, Trotter has received funding from SMU’s University PhD Fellowship ($5,000 annually), and grants from the Texas American College of Sports Medicine ($2,000), and the National American College of Sports Medicine ($4,960).
She believes strong faculty support is essential to the success of PhD students. “Specifically for this grant, Dr. Davis gave me full support and without his support and guidance, I would not be receiving these awards,” she said.