Alumnus, Physician Leader Keynotes Undergraduate Research Conference

APRIL 21, 2017 - A double Georgetown alumnus and physician leader told students at the 2017 Undergraduate Research Conference that their careers might take “unexpected” paths.

Rear Adm. Richard W. Childs (C’87, M’91), MD, an officer in the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service where he is assistant surgeon general, delivered the keynote address yesterday at the annual event, hosted by the Department of Human Science at the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

Childs – who is also the clinical director of the Division of Intramural Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – discussed his longtime research on kidney cancer and his clinical work in Liberia in 2014 to care for health providers who had been infected with the Ebola virus.

“When I was here as a Georgetown student as an undergrad and in medical school, my interest was primarily in clinical medicine,” he said, noting he could not have predicted his research career at the National Institutes of Health or his deployment to West Africa to help with the Ebola crisis. “You may all think that you kind of know where you are going. But I can tell you: unexpected things can happen.”

‘So Valuable’

The conference, which was founded in 2003 and celebrates undergraduate research and faculty mentorship at Georgetown and on other campuses, spotlights research posters and selected oral presentations. This year, 75 posters were featured from Georgetown, American, George Washington, Howard, James Madison, and Loyola Maryland universities.

Human science major Kayla Schmittau (NHS’17) presented one of those posters, which won a designation for excellence. It detailed her work on Huntington’s disease with mentor Karen E. Anderson, MD, who directs the Huntington Disease Care, Education and Research Center, a combined effort of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

Schmittau, who is planning a career in medicine, says the experience is allowing her to do clinical observation, study the disease’s pathology, and keep up on the latest academic scholarship. “My time with Dr. Anderson has been a very comprehensive learning opportunity,” says Schmittau. “It is so valuable.”


Joan Burggraf Riley (NHS’76, G’97), MS, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, FAAN, assistant dean for educational innovation, was selected to receive the Allan Angerio, PhD, Award for Excellence in Faculty Mentorship.

“This award is especially meaningful to me for two reasons,” Riley says. “First, because it is selected by students. Student research is meaningful and important to our mission. Second, because the award is named in honor of a remarkable individual, one who served as an important mentor to me during my own undergraduate years and who has continued in that role as my faculty colleague and friend ever since.”

Awards for student research, which honor conference founder and former professor Charles H. Evans, Jr., MD, PhD, went to Aamir Javaid (C’17) for best poster presentation and Kevin Martin (C’17) for best oral presentation.

Lindsay Caprio (NHS’19) earned an award for “rising researcher,” and Schmittau, Vinodh Balendran (C’17), Sarah Berg (NHS’17), Jacqueline Kimmell (C’17), Emma Spikol (C’17), Noori Srivastava (NHS’18), and Marissa Stepler (C’17) all were recognized for excellent posters.

Planning Committee

The 2017 event planning committee included student co-chairs Giselle Wallace (C’17) and Karen Jiwon Noh (C’18); assistant professor of human science Jan LaRocque, PhD; associate professor of human science Alex Theos, PhD; program manager in human science Carol Hom; and assistant dean Jennifer Ericson, MS. “This is my favorite day of the entire academic year,” LaRocque noted.

Other committee members are Johnny Jung (C’18), Madeline Kuney (C’20), Kira Lin (NHS’17), Kevin Martin (C’17), Matthew Park (C’19), Niritta Patel (NHS’19), Nishtha Raval (NHS’19), Casey Skapek (C’18), Kristen Watkins (NHS’17), and Danielle Zamalin (NHS’18).

Related Content

Department of Human Science

Undergraduate Research Conference