Global Health at Georgetown University
A new major in the College: Biology of Global Health
Issues of global health have extraordinary reach into a wide diversity of scientific topics. A new program in the College is the major in the Biology of Global Health (BGH) seeks to address students’ desire for studies in these topics.
This innovative new program, administered through the Biology Department, encourages depth in science, as well as breadth across disciplines investigating how science is perceived by the public, how policy decisions impact science, and the dynamics of science communication, all with the aim of understanding and fostering the “health of the globe”. Although the program considers human health in large degree, the impacts of humans on the globe as well as the impacts of environmental change on humans are also considered.
The BGH major is designed to prepare students to take on subjects, such as:
o Infectious diseases (examples include HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and influenza);
o Environmental issues (pollution, overpopulation, global warming, deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and insects);
o Molecular biology and biotechnological advances (genetically-modified crops, stem cells, and genomics);
o Demographic issues (maternal and child health, aging populations, and urban populations);
o Biodiversity, genetics and evolution (antibiotic resistance, chronic and autoimmune diseases).
We encourage students to consider an abroad experience as part of their undergraduate studies – recent students have done summer programs in Shanghai or Buenos Aires, others have spent a semester in Copenhagen or Edinburgh, while still others have gone on spring break trips (see the recent story about one BGH major’s trip to Costa Rica
The BGH program was inaugurated in 2008 and in 2010 we graduated our first large class of majors. Comments from a few of them:
Jeff Bien (BGH major [Music minor], ’10): As a BGH student, I not only had the opportunity to take advantage of the dual research and policy foci of Georgetown, but I was also able to access the extensive global health resources located in Washington, DC. The possibility offered by the BGH program allowed me to identify and really explore global health topics that fascinated me, and afforded me chances to interact with some of the best and brightest minds in the field. As a direct result of these explorations, I took the opportunity to work for a biotech company in Silicon Valley, California, to further investigate infectious disease diagnostics, a topic that interested me greatly throughout my undergraduate career.
Kelly Differding (BGH major [Economics minor], ’10): Biology of Global Health opened my eyes to career paths I had never considered before, outside the realm of medicine and academia. The diverse course load and unique project assignments lead me to realize that I could use my degree in a more non-traditional way, in the field of private consulting. I currently work at ICF International in Fairfax, VA as an Environmental Risk and Toxicology consultant. Many of the skills I learned as a BGH major—making difficult science more accessible to the general public, dissecting scientific literature and clinical trials for key information, and most of all, the ability to focus on the nitty-gritty details while still looking at the big picture—have provided me an enormous competitive edge. I feel extremely privileged to have been in the very first graduating class of Georgetown BGH majors, and I would not trade my experience for anything.
Abram Wagner (double major in BGH and Chinese, ’10): The BGH major was perfect, combining my interests in biology and the world beyond the United States. The diversity of classes in the major offered me the flexibility to study the issues I found most interesting and encouraged me to look to graduate school in public health.
Although other schools have undergraduate programs in public health, most are focused on policy, so Georgetown College’s BGH major, with its focus on science, is unique. However, Georgetown nevertheless offers additional opportunities for undergraduate studies in global health, including the majors in International Health
, Human Science
, and Science, Technology and International Affairs
, particularly the concentration in Biotechnology and Global Health.
For current sophomores interested in becoming BGH majors, applications are due late September/early October. See the Department of Biology
web site for more details.