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JOHNSON CITY (May 8, 2013) –East Tennessee State University undergraduate and Midway Honors Scholar Rees Burt has received national recognition of his honors research.

In April, Burt accepted the Robert Gunn Award for Undergraduate Research from the Cell and Molecular Physiology section of the American Physiological Society. The award was presented in April at the international Experimental Biology conference in Boston.

Burt competed in a poster competition with students from around the world and, as the winner, was presented with $300 and registration fees for the meeting.

The award is named for Dr. Robert Gunn, the longtime chair of the Department of Physiology at Emory University School of Medicine. He was an ardent researcher and educator. The award was established following his untimely death from lymphoma.

Burt has been working with Dr. Robert Wondergem of the Department of Biomedical Science in ETSU’s James H. Quillen College of Medicine. Their research involves the ion channels that mediate pacemaker function in the heart.

At the Experimental Biology conference, Burt reported on their experiments with heart cells from mice and their plans to continue the research with human cells in coming months. The research investigates the electrical and chemical responses of these cells in the presence of ion channel inhibition.

“My experience in Boston has been profoundly influential in my choice of career direction,” says Burt. “I desire to serve a role within both the academic and clinical facets of medicine. Perhaps the most inspiring observation I made during my travels was how deeply veterans within this field care about, and strive to cultivate, the upcoming generation of scientists. The mentorship and support I received could never be repaid.”

Burt was partially supported in his research by an American Physiology Society Summer Research Fellowship last summer, and his conference attendance was supported by an Honors College Professional Conference Travel grant.

Burt is a native of Bristol and an ETSU senior majoring in chemistry. He was selected for the Midway Honors Scholars program in the fall of 2011 and entered ETSU after graduating from Northeast State Community College. He plans to graduate from ETSU in December 2013, and then continue his education in either an M.D. or Ph.D. program.

“For me,” Burt adds, “research fulfills a ‘wildness’ in my heart that seeks a continual exploration of the unknown. Physiology is the study of how living things function, and I am humbled by the complexity and beauty of the mechanisms that regulate such processes.”        

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