Auburn University School of Kinesiology Assistant Professor Austin Robinson is participating in a program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health to promote diversity among biomedical researchers. Robinson was selected for the highly competitive Program to Increase Diversity among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (PRIDE) sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the largest branches of the National Institutes of Health.
PRIDE researchers will attend two intensive summer workshops consisting of advanced research education and mentoring by senior researchers.
“The program is taking place at nine different sites across the country,” Robinson said.“I am part of the St. Louis site which focuses on the genes that may contribute to heart disease and gathering trends in data from large population studies about various factors that may contribute to heart disease.”
Robinson spent two weeks at the University of Washington at St. Louis last summer, joining several other early career researchers from underrepresented backgrounds.
For the first time this year, the program also offered the chance to apply for funding for a small research project. Robinson applied for and was awarded $16,500 to research the relationship between blood sodium content and blood pressure in nearly 7,000 adults from a large study called the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.
“We know from several previous studies that if you give people a lot of dietary sodium, that the sodium content in their blood will increase and that may contribute to changes that lead to increased blood pressure,” he said.
The project complements another National Institutes of Health grant that Robinson recently received to focus on the role of sodium as a contributor to health disparities in African Americans.
“By gaining access to this data, we can determine if blood sodium content is linked to blood pressure in a large sample of people who are just eating their normal diets without researchers controlling their sodium intake,” he explained.
Robinson is also seeking to determine if there are any differences in the relationship between different racial or ethnic groups.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to perform this research,” he said. “The great thing about this study is that the participants were very diverse so the findings will apply to all types of people rather than just one group”.
Robinson presented his findings at a conference at the National Institutes of Health in April as part of the program. He will return to St. Louis for another two weeks this summer.
“The program is very intense, but the training and mentoring I have been receiving as part of PRIDE is extremely valuable for my career as a researcher,” he said.
Robinson’s small research project is funded by the following grant: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant 2R25HL105400, PRIDE Summer Institute in Cardiovascular Disease Comorbidities, Genetics and Epidemiology (CVD-CGE).
For more information on Robinson and his research, follow him on Twitter at @AusRob_PhD or visit his lab website.