As one of the youngest students in the Department of Pharmacology, Ramy Mitwalli has initiated his academic career with ambition and vigor. Having graduated from the University of South Florida with a BS in Biomedical Sciences in three years, Ramy went on to enroll in the Pharmacology Masters program, where he is currently doing a concentration in neuropharmacology. What’s next? Besides medical school, Ramy hopes to use his time at Georgetown to give him a solid understanding of pharmaceutical drugs in medical practice.
Tell us about yourself! What is your academic/professional background and what led you to pursue graduate school in your field?
I have always been inspired by the emergence of complexity from the stochastic molecular collisions at the cellular level to the behavior of people interacting in the world. In every day life, we notice somehow that randomness gives way to order. Traffic patterns converge into lanes, votes are counted, national decisions are made, genes are expressed and life goes on.
The mysteries of the molecular world had captivated my intellectual interests upon first exposure in my undergraduate chemistry course-work. Coming to Georgetown, I thought I would begin my study of this minute and mysterious universe by pursuing an MS in Pharmacology. Because of my fascination with how the brain worked, I chose to pursue a concentration in neuropharmacology. My interest in neuropharmacology encouraged me to seek a research assistant position in a neuroscience lab here at Georgetown University Medical Center. This lab focuses on seizures and the impacts of antiepileptic drugs on the brain.
One of the highlights of my academic career- and one that would ultimately push me towards pursuing an MS in Pharmacology- was my work as an undergraduate research assistant at the USF Department of Psychiatry. Under the tutelage of Gabriel de Erausquin MD, PhD, MSc, a board certified psychiatrist and neurologist with a PhD in pharmacology, my research focused on the role of developing dopaminergic neurons in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a fascinating disease, in part because it makes you consider the fragility of your own sanity. Not only did this work in the lab inspire me to pursue research, but my time in the clinic shadowing Dr. de Erausquin as he treated patients with complex psychiatric and neurological conditions reinforced my passion to practice medicine.
There are many factors at different scales that interact together to give us the clinical presentation at the patient level. The study of pharmacology will allow me to be more competent as a practicing physician by giving me a fundamental understanding of medications and their route of actions in the body.
How did you hear about us and why did you decide to study at Georgetown?
Georgetown is a great place with great history. The Department of Pharmacology has great faculty and staff members who encompass immense intellect and expertise while also providing a diverse array of research opportunities. My undergraduate PI, who worked as a postdoc at Georgetown in the late eighties, encouraged me to apply to the Pharmacology program. He described the department with such great prestige. As we looked through the list of faculty members, he was able to recognize many of the names that he worked with. Having said nothing but great things about the department and its faculty, I decided to apply.
What advice would you give current or prospective students looking to get into your field of study?
Always seek what makes you happy. A career in biomedical research or medicine is only matched in its difficulties and challenges by its rewards. If you seek intellectual fulfillment or want to change the world with an idea then this is the path for you. In any case, I think one can maximize happiness by framing your chosen path in the context of world and societal problems.
We are all like molecules bumping, colliding and binding with each other — exchanging information and influencing each other’s paths. If you can do this, then you do not only do yourself a favor but the world that stands to benefit from your contributions.