February 6, 2019 - Alexis “Lexi” Schiazza (NHS’19) is a human science major who currently conducts diabetes-related research in the laboratory of Blythe Shepard, PhD, assistant professor of human science. This coming April will be a busy one, a month in which she will present her honors thesis and co-chair the annual Undergraduate Research Conference.
Question: How have you enjoyed your time at Georgetown and in the human science major?
Schiazza: Science has always been my field of interest. Coming from a large high school in New Jersey, Georgetown caught my eye as the perfect school because of its close-knit community and dedication to undergraduate research opportunities. However, I didn’t find my true place at Georgetown until my sophomore year when I transferred into the School of Nursing & Health Studies.
The Human Science Department has felt like a family that both encourages and challenges you to dive deeply into topic areas of health and disease that interest you. While our curriculum remains captivating and well prepares us for future careers, human science also invests in personal relationships with students and building community. Insightful guest speakers and community outreach projects through the NHS also provide chances to engage with science in larger contexts, such as broader moral and political debates.
Question: Tell us about how you got involved in research and what opportunities that has brought you.
Schiazza: Research has always been a passion of mine as it requires you to merge scientific knowledge with innovative problem-solving. Throughout my time at Georgetown, I have had the privilege of working in a diverse range of laboratories to gain experience in specialties such as organic chemistry, cancer genetics, and translational renal physiology. For the past two years, I have been working on an independent project under Dr. Blythe Shepard, focused on finding possible treatments for Type I diabetes using a mouse model.
My research has given me the opportunity to travel to national conferences and share my work with other members of the scientific community and learn from renowned investigators. It has also led me to become a committee chair for Georgetown’s Undergraduate Research Conference.
Question: What other activities have you been involved in at Georgetown?
Schiazza: Georgetown has also presented me with opportunities to immerse myself in activities outside of the sciences and share with others my love for performing arts. In the spring of 2018, I was hired to join the directing staff for Mask & Bauble’s production of Footloose as the choreographer. It was breathtaking to see the production come to life after teaching 21 cast members to step outside of their comfort zone and learn to share my love of dancing.
I have also engaged with Georgetown’s mission for building community and embracing Jesuit values through my role as a resident assistant. Providing a support system for fellow students and promoting resources with campus partners have helped create a supportive and engaging residential network.
Question: What are your plans for the future?
Schiazza: To culminate my time crafting my research study under the guidance of Dr. Shepard, I will present, in April, my study as an honors thesis before graduating Georgetown in May. I will then begin my long-term pursuit of merging my passions for scientific and medical discovery and providing support and treatment for patients and families in need. I plan to join a research team that brings groundbreaking physiological bench science into a clinical setting.
While gaining experience in the clinical arena, I will also volunteer at clinics that provide holistic care and advocacy for populations that may face stigma, disparities, and barriers to medical care. I then aspire to pursue a dual MD-PhD degree through a medical scientist training program. I hope to provide supportive and personalized patient care, while also conducting research to aid in discoveries that reach patients in need.