SPOKANE, Wash. – A graduate student comparing the genetic effects of diabetes and exercise on the heart has been welcomed to the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

The NSF annual award of $30,000 – renewable annually for up to three years – begins in summer 2013 and will support Emily Cox in her research project in the Nutrition and Exercise Physiology program at WSU Health Sciences in Spokane.

“Both exercise and diabetes change the shape and size of the heart, but they do it in different ways, and the basis for the difference is not well understood,” Cox said. “”I’m studying how diabetes and exercise activate different genes in cardiac muscle cells and consequently, how both affect the structure and function of the heart.” The findings could someday help identify a biological target for drug therapy in patients with heart disease caused by diabetes, she said.

Cox is in her second year of the doctoral program. She works in the laboratory of Dr. Susan Marsh, assistant professor and director of the graduate program in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.