News Story

Human Science Major Enjoys Chemistry Research, Plans Career as Physician-Researcher

August 31, 2021 – Julia Alvey (NHS’22), a senior human science major from Illinois, has always found enjoyment in solving puzzles. That interest, she said, undergirds her goal of becoming a physician-researcher.

“My parents like to joke that I’ve always wanted to be a physician,” she said. “I think I’ve always been someone who enjoyed solving puzzles, and when I realized that this career path would allow me to solve puzzles that would change a person’s life in immeasurable ways, I knew it was what I wanted to do.”

Julia Alvey in a sunny outdoor setting
Human science major Julia Alvey (NHS’22), who plans a career as a physician-researcher, said about her college research, “I knew Georgetown was the place I wanted to spend the next four years.”

Her plans became even clearer when she studied about health literacy in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention course taught by Professor Joan Riley, associate professor of human science.

“I immediately realized that I could combine my teaching skills and my interest in medicine to help improve the health literacy of my patients,” Alvey noted. “That realization was what ultimately solidified my desire to go into medicine.”

‘Georgetown Was The Place’

When she was researching colleges, Alvey came across the human science major’s website, remembering, “I knew Georgetown was the place I wanted to spend the next four years.”

“After describing the major to some of my high school teachers, they even said they just knew it was where I was going to end up,” she said. “They were absolutely right. I knew as soon as I met the faculty and students at GAAP weekend that the caring community of the NHS was exactly where I was meant to be.”

Alvey said she feels “incredibly lucky” to work alongside her classmates and professors.

“I’ve met lifelong friends through the major and have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing faculty members who have become my most important mentors,” she said. “The professors in the NHS have helped me navigate opportunities I could have once never even dreamed of pursuing, and I feel like I’ve grown so much as both a scientist and a person because of them.”

‘The Perfect Combination’

In addition, Alvey’s love of research has grown through her work in the Department of Chemistry at Georgetown College. 

“Professor [Diana] Glick and Professor [Richard] Weiss both helped me fall in love with chemistry,” she said, “and it’s been a joy to examine the health and disease I see in my human science courses from a molecular perspective through my courses as a chemistry minor.”

Alvey is currently working, as a part of her honors thesis, under the mentorship of Dr. Esther Braselmann, the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor, on long noncoding RNA NORAD.

“My research experience has been the perfect combination of the study of health and disease with biochemistry and really got me excited about doing research in the future,” she said.

Student Activities

Alvey is an NHS student academic mentor in the area of pathophysiology. “I love helping teach that course because I’m getting to decipher the complex mechanisms of disease and translate them to understandable explanations, and I’ll be doing the same for my patients in the clinic,” she noted. 

She participates in the NHS Peer Advising Program as a peer coordinator. Additionally, with the Chemistry Club, she serves as vice president and also tutors.

“My more creative side appears through my work with the Hoya, the campus newspaper,” Alvey said. “I’ve served in a variety of roles since my freshman year, but am currently the philanthropy director.” 

“I’ve loved having a space to explore my more creative interests and also guide me to unique opportunities,” she said, noting, “I’ve photographed a red carpet movie premiere and presidential candidates because of the Hoya.”

Future Plans

Alvey is working on her applications for medical school with the goal of a career as a physician-researcher. She is also applying to fellowships in the United Kingdom.

“I hope to use RNA biology research to help increase our knowledge of health and disease from a molecular perspective in the lab while I continue to improve the health literacy of my patients in the clinic,” she said.

As she thinks about the year ahead, Alvey said, “I hope to just enjoy my last year on campus and in D.C. by spending time with my friends and exploring the city.”

By Bill Cessato