Alumni Profiles

Upward and Onward: Celebrating the Class of 2022

During this time of celebration of the many accomplishments of our students, Carla Owens-Filice, Project Manager in the Biomedical Graduate Education’s Office of Career Strategy & Professional Development, presents a reflection on some of our graduates.

A student’s education is a step on the journey that will take them to their life goals. Our goal at Georgetown University Biomedical Graduate Education is to foster students’ goals, provide them with numerous opportunities upon graduation, and help them explore their career options.

After completing a rigorous curriculum, our graduate students have the skills necessary to begin or elevate their career paths. In addition to preparing for their future careers, students have formed lasting bonds with peers and faculty, and have gained valuable insights about themselves. As Michelle Obama put it:

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain goal. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” 

Michelle Obama

Today, our students look back with pride at what they have accomplished at Georgetown. We at BGE celebrate their accomplishments and wish them success in their careers. It is a pleasure to showcase some of the fantastic students in the Class of 2022.

—Carla Owens-Filice

Urja Biswas, M.S. in Microbiology & Immunology

Urja found her perfect fit in Georgetown University’s M.S. in Microbiology & Immunology program. Before dedicating her career to in-depth research, she explored biomedical fields and gained a great deal of knowledge. Unfortunately, COVID-19 severely impeded her journey of exploration, putting her out of touch with her research and lab. While her classes were online, she still managed to take a laboratory course during her first semester. It provided her with experience in cell culture applications and reignited her passion.

One of her courses, “Biochemistry of Viruses,” introduced her to her future master’s research advisor, Dr. John L. Casey. In the fall semester, she took a challenging 17 credits in virology because she had fallen in love with the subject. As a result, the decision to spend the spring semester working in Dr. Casey’s lab was an easy one. She got access to stimulating research, development, and industrial opportunities.

Completing 17 credits and the lab was exhausting, but the reward was satisfying: a path within the vast field of microbiology. Urja concluded that she would pursue virology in her career as a researcher.

Urja recently was offered admission with dean’s fellowship at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Ph.D. program in Biological Sciences for Fall 2022, with a concentration in Molecular and Cellular Biology. She intends to join the virology research cluster while pursuing a Ph.D. at UMD.

Favorite Quote: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Thomas Edison

Umair Jarral, Executive Master’s in Clinical Quality, Safety & Leadership

As a foreign medical graduate who had never attended schools in the U.S., Umair faced a challenge in the Executive Master’s in Clinical Quality, Safety & Leadership program. He was ready for the next step in his career and wanted to pursue his passion. But he knew he had to get out of his comfort zone to accomplish his goals. Umair had faced many setbacks in his professional career — in particular, not matching when applying for medical residency programs over six years.

Umair writes: “While following your passion is important, it’s even more important to identify a problem that speaks to you and either find a solution or take part in the solution. The best investment you can make is in yourself, so find a program that resonates with you, helps you improve your professionalism, and positively impacts your personal life. By growing personally, you will also positively impact your career.”

The Executive Master’s in Clinical Quality, Safety & Leadership gave him back the confidence he had lost along the way. The program helped him grow as a professional and learn valuable techniques to be a better leader.

After finishing his degree, Umair is looking forward to using his knowledge and newly acquired skills to make a career transition. He is currently undergoing the process of interviewing for career opportunities. His goal is to make a change from the operations side of clinical research for nonprofit organizations to the world of pharmacovigilance/drug safety in the pharmaceutical industry.

Personal Quote: “I want to tell anyone who has had a challenging ride that setbacks only become failures when we stop trying. So give it a shot; you can do it!”

Umair Jarral

Simran Rajput, M.S. in Physiology & Biophysics

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With ambition and a readiness to work toward her goals, Simran came to Georgetown BGE as an Ignatian Hoya Scholarship recipient. She had previously studied at the University of Georgia, earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in Spanish. After completing her undergraduate education, Simran volunteered at Janaseva, a nonprofit that provides health care to low-income families, displaced individuals, daily wage workers and laborers in Kolkata, India. As a medical team member, she conducted workshops about domestic violence, quitting smoking and maintaining good hygiene.

The work gave Simran insights into being ethically responsible, which she shared with her patients and their families during the home inspections and clinic visits. The experience in Kolkata taught her that choosing a treatment and helping patients improve their health requires scientific knowledge, boundless curiosity, transparent communication and constructive compassion.

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Georgetown students develop strong ability for community leadership through the integrity and character required to learn and reason. Simran pursued her interest in medicine at Georgetown, and she also took advantage of learning opportunities for self-reflection, accountability and compassion.

After completing the M.S. in Physiology & Biophysics program, Simran is determined to become a doctor. In the upcoming year, she will focus on preparing for her medical school application, conducting research on stem cell therapy, and working alongside physicians at St. Jude Children’s Hospital as a medical scribe in Atlanta, Georgia.

Favorite quote: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted, and behold, service was joy.”


Laurie Zabala, M.S. in Integrative Neuroscience

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Laurie joined us from Southern California and has enjoyed exploring all that D.C. has to offer. Building on a history major and interest in the life sciences, she found that the M.S. in Integrative Neuroscience program synergized her social sciences background, research experience and fascination with the human brain. As a Georgetown student, Laurie researched Alzheimer’s disease using patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells. In addition, she was an active member of The Vannevar Group, which advocates for evidence-based national science policy.

Laurie was honored with the “Best Poster” award at the poster session day for the M.S. in Integrative Neuroscience program, and was nominated for the 2022 Exceptional Master’s Student Award. She says: “I am proud of having achieved the goals I set for myself when I started the MS Integrative Neuroscience program.”

Looking forward to the next stage of her career, Laurie says she has developed an interest in science policy careers. She is currently interning as a science communications intern for research at a nonprofit advocacy organization for medical and health research.

Favorite quote: “Decide what matters to you. Then have the courage to build your life around it.”