Lab Research | MS in Pharmacology


Approximately half of the students in the MS Program in Pharmacology choose to have a laboratory experience as a part of the degree. Choosing the Laboratory Research Track allows the student to be engaged in a research project in both the fall and spring semesters.  In the fall, both Tuesdays and Thursdays are free, and in the Spring, every afternoon of the week is free.

The purpose of the laboratory experience is to give the student exposure to “real science.” Many MS students already have some laboratory experience and this is a chance to increase that portion of your CV. For those with limited or no research background, it provides an excellent opportunity for an introduction to “wet lab” research.

Students become engaged in a research project that is either ongoing or new. The project is discussed at the beginning of the fall, papers are given to allow the student to learn more about the research area and specific project and then daily or weekly meetings are used to keep track of progress and to troubleshoot problems. Usually MS students work with someone advanced in laboratory skills, such as a PhD student, a post-doc, or a Research Professor. Students who plan to go on to a PhD program or work in a laboratory-based position in biotech or big pharma are strongly encouraged to do the Laboratory Research Track.

Students admitted to the program will receive information in the early summer about connecting with research mentors for the fall.  Our faculty directory contains a list of faculty who have successfully mentored previous M.S. students, however their inclusion on the list does not guarantee their availability to serve as a mentor. Availability each year depends on lab capacity and mentor obligations; students admitted to the program will receive information in the early summer about connecting with available research mentors for the fall. If you wish to work in a lab outside our department, permission from the program director is required in advance. Unfortunately we cannot accommodate requests to work in labs outside of Georgetown.

Students doing the Laboratory Research Track need to take mandatory Lab Safety & Radiation Safety sessions in late August. If you will be doing a project involving animals, you must also attend a training session given by the Department of Comparative Medicine. Details will be provided in the early summer to admitted students. 

Near the end of the academic year, usually in April, students participating in research prepare and present a poster to the department. This is an excellent way to learn about scientific presentations and gives the opportunity to ‘bring it all together’ at the end.

Examples of M.S. Student Research

2020 – 2021
Research Topics
Yasuda1. Editing the Beta-2 subunit of the acetylcholine-nicotinic receptors (nAChRs) using CRISPR/Cas9
2. Editing the Alpha-5 subunit of nAChRs using Prime editing techniques to create an edited subunit with less Indels
ForcelliAnti-seizure Medications with Varying Dosages that result in Apoptosis to Different Regions of the Brain
KromerUnderstanding the importance of PCR and Gel Electrophoresis in determining wild type and mutant bands of Ephrin genes.
Fugh-BermanExploring the objectivity of Medical Science Liaisons and the similarities of their involvement in marketing to that of drug reps.

2019 – 2020
Research Topics
Yasuda/KellarLooking at the differences in Ca2+ permeability between the a5D and a5N (heavy smoking) single nucleotide polymorphisms in the human a4B2 nicotinic receptor complex using an Aequorin assay.
WangStudying the function of the protein MMP in pre-synaptic homeostatic potentiation(PHP). The study focuses on the glutamate receptor and studies the mechanism in how glia cells restore the postsynaptic firing by changing the quantal content of the presynaptic neuron.
KellarThe relationship of nicotinic alpha 4 subunits and thermogenesis, metabolism, and fat composition
YasudaRole of Alpha 5 Nicotinic Receptor Subunit in Acetylcholine Mediated Calcium Influx
PakMechanism of N-cadherin loss in Hyperexcitability. Exploring possible mechanisms of cleavage (degradation) of Ncad, using proteosomal and/or lysosomal inhibitors such as gamma-secretase/beta-secretase/MMP
Kellar/DezfuliAge-Related Deficit in Neurotransmitter Release and its Potential Rescue by Metformin and Amphetamine: Implications for Treatment of Cognitive Decline

2018 – 2019
Research Topics
Vicini / SahibzadaThe Dorsal Vagal Complex (DVC) in the brainstem and its various modulatory pathways. Through stereotaxic and laparoscopic surgeries, patch-clamp experiments and data analysis, I am evaluating the network dynamics of excitatory and inhibitory cells originating from and projecting to critical brainstem nuclei (including the DMV and NTS) and controlling peripheral organs. 
Pak / AndreStudying the homeostatic plasticity of neurons and the relationship between the enzyme PLK2, and the neurotransmitter glutamate, in neurons and astrocytes and the formation of A-beta plaques and their contributions to the pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease, a disease whose mechanism is still poorly understood.
Suzuki / ShultsPulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) & right ventricular failure. Comparing the effect that PAH has on mitochondria total area and total number of cristae (partitions in mitochondria).
PakAnalyzing the effect of certain risk factor genes on the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease, and determining how the enzyme PLK2 effects the degradation of N-Cadherin, which helps form synapses between neurons.