Junior Wins Top Award Recognizing Research Poster on Stress and Neuroblastoma

SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 - Human science major Larissa Wietlisbach (NHS’18) recently won the top undergraduate award for her research poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Greater Washington Area American Physiological Society.

At the event, held September 23 at George Washington University, Wietlisbach presented her work on prenatal stress and neuroblastoma, a project she works on in the laboratory of Georgetown faculty members Joanna Kitlinska, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, and Jason Tilan, PhD, assistant professor of human science.

Wietlisbach, who was recognized at the 2016 Undergraduate Research Conference as a “rising researcher,” took some time to share her thoughts on the award, her experience at Georgetown, and her career plans as a physician.

NHS: Tell us about the award you won.

LW: Last week I went to the third annual meeting of the DMV area Chapter of the American Physiological Society. Basically it was a conference for undergraduates, graduates, and post-graduates to present their research on physiology as well as learn about what others have been working on. I was pretty nervous going into it to be honest. But thanks to my friends and coworkers in the lab that I'm in, I was able to practice my poster speech enough that I became a lot more comfortable presenting it. I was pretty surprised that I was given the top undergraduate presentation award because there were so many brilliant people at the conference. It is kind of nice when hard work pays off.

NHS: How are you enjoying Georgetown and the human science major?

LW: I’ve loved Georgetown from the moment I stepped foot on campus. It’s been a great few years being a student here, and I feel I’ve gained so many unforgettable experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Discussing politics, ethics, and philosophy in my core classes has really opened my eyes to different topics I had never even thought about before. In my human science classes, specifically “Health Promotion and Disease Prevention” and “Human Biology,” I’ve learned how not only to treat those who are sick, but also how to give the best care for others. Again I’ve learned so much that goes into being a great clinician that I had never even thought of before. And for this, I’m forever grateful to Georgetown and my professors. 

NHS: How did you get involved in research and what research have you been working on?

LW: It’s funny that as a freshman I was really hesitant to get involved with research because I didn’t think I’d be well-fitted for it. One of my friends really pushed me to email around to NHS professors freshman year, and magically four minutes after I emailed Dr. Jason Tilan, he invited me to interview for his lab with Dr. Joanna Kitlinska. Ever since then I’ve been working with them on neuroblastoma, which is the most common cancer in infants. Our hypothesis is that prenatal stress promotes neuroblastoma development in offspring. 

NHS: What other types of activities are you involved in at Georgetown?

LW: I also am captain of the Georgetown Club Field Hockey team. It’s been a ton of fun to continue playing the sport I love in college without the huge demands of playing on the varsity level. I love all my teammates too of course - they’re so supportive and bring a smile to my face whenever I seem them around campus. Our practices are laid back, but we’re competitive too. We placed sixth at nationals in the spring last year.

NHS: What are your plans for the future?

LW: After graduating I plan to go to medical school to study to become a geriatrician. I think it’s really inspiring how the field of geriatrics is shifting from simply extending lives to giving a higher quality of life to the elderly. I know I would really get a lot out of taking care of people in this way.

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Department of Human Science