North­eastern grad stu­dent Tianzhu “Indi” Zang has won a com­pet­i­tive Amer­ican Heart Asso­ci­a­tion (AHA) pre-​​doctoral fel­low­ship to study the con­nec­tion between an amino acid com­monly found in the human blood­stream and car­dio­vas­cular disease.

Zang will col­lab­o­rate with med­ical researchers at Har­vard, Tufts, and Boston Uni­ver­sity to take a close look at the amino acid homo­cys­teine, which has also been linked to dia­betes and birth defects.

According to Zang’s advisor, Zhaohui “Sunny” Zhou, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­istry and chem­ical biology and a Bar­nett Insti­tute of Chem­ical and Bio­log­ical Analysis fellow, the work will focus on under­standing whether homo­cys­teine and its deriv­a­tives cause car­dio­vas­cular disease.

Zang will test the hypoth­esis that homo­cys­teine alters par­tic­ular pro­teins, cre­ating con­di­tions that trigger car­dio­vas­cular prob­lems. He has devised a chem­ical method to detect such pro­tein mod­i­fi­ca­tions. He will also attempt to deter­mine which pro­teins are altered.

The third-​​year doc­toral stu­dent earned his under­grad­uate and master’s degrees in bio­chem­istry from Jilin Uni­ver­sity, in Changchun, China.

In 2007, he joined Zhou at the Bar­nett Insti­tute. Zang says he is excited to be con­ducting research at the cutting-​​edge center.

North­eastern chem­istry and chemical-​​biology researchers, and the Bar­nett Insti­tute have such a strong back­ground in analysis,” he says. “This was the reason I chose the university.”

Since coming to North­eastern, Zang has coau­thored three pub­li­ca­tions and sub­mitted a fourth as first author. In 2008, the Bar­nett Insti­tute pre­sented Zang with the Gustel and Ernst Giessen Memo­rial Award in recog­ni­tion of his research achievements.

Zhou applauds his student’s attain­ment of the AHA fel­low­ship. “As a young stu­dent from a for­eign country—as I once was—Indi faced many chal­lenges to win such a com­pet­i­tive award,” he says. “He should be very proud of his achieve­ment. I am extremely happy for him.”

Barry Karger, director of the Bar­nett Insti­tute, also praises Zang’s accomplishment—an honor, Karger says, that reflects the high quality of the per­sonnel at the center and the research being con­ducted there.