Georgetown Scientific Research Journal GSR Journal
Blythe Shepard, Ph.D is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Science at Georgetown and the Dekkers Endowed Chair in Human Science, mentoring students in research and teaching courses such as Language of Health and Disease and Unsung Receptors. She received her B.S. in Biology and Secondary Education from Boston College and her Ph.D. in Cellular and Microbial Biology from the Catholic University of America. Following the completion of her degree, she studied Renal Physiology as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University.
Involvement in Research:
Dr. Shepard is currently the Principal Investigator of the Shepard Lab, which is interested in understanding the physiological functions of sensory receptors in “non-sensory” tissues. Specifically, her lab looks at olfactory (smell) receptors in the liver, kidney, and small intestine. Using cells and animal models such as mice, they “knock out” one particular olfactory receptor, Olfr1393, and compare the general phenotyping of the manipulated and control models. The goal of Dr. Shepard’s lab is to shed light on understudied G-protein coupled receptors and their implications for the development of diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. To learn more, feel free to email Dr. Shepard at email@example.com.
“Do you like animals?” Upon hearing this question, Dr. Shepard stumbled upon the world of research. As a Freshman in undergrad, Dr. Shepard’s dream was to be a high school biology teacher. It wasn’t until she worked a part-time job maintaining animal models in a lab that she was truly exposed to the work of research. A simple job that involved numbering and setting up animal cages led to valuable experiences, from researching seizures and neurological disorders to even working on an independent research project. While she had a good handle on education, she deepened her passion for research in graduate school, shifting from animals to more cell biology, focusing on alcoholic liver disease. While she preserved her teaching aspect by being a TA for intro level biology classes, Dr. Shepard let go of her old dream of teaching in highschool and fully honed in on research. During postdoc, she switched from the liver to the kidneys, studying the particular olfactory receptors involved in glucose absorption. Finally, she came to Georgetown and now lives the best of both worlds, teaching and getting students involved in research.
Reflecting on her journey, Dr. Shepard highlights how she had no idea where her career would take her. While she always liked science in high school, she never knew how important and fun research was. Dr. Shepard regrets not gaining more from her freshman part time job due to the intimidation she felt when communicating with professors. In fact, she jokes that she would have never applied to the job if she knew she was emailing a biology professor. However, she now realizes that research is the perfect space to meet mentors or even mentees. Everyone has their own timeline and research allows people of different stages of their journey to meet and learn from each other. It took her a long time to truly appreciate the diversity of her coworkers’ research experiences and careers.
Advice for Students:
Dr. Shepard encourages students to be open and flexible because you never know where your journey will take you. Trying new things is beneficial to students no matter what, as it may lead to newfound passions or even reinforce what you already are passionate about. If a student is interested in research and wants to be involved they shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to mentors or let intimidation get in the way. College is the time to explore all options, so students should avoid feeling pressured to stick to a plan. Especially in DC and the DMV area, Dr. Shepard hopes students will take advantage of all the opportunities research has to offer, both where they believe their career lies and outside of it. Finally, it is okay to change careers and not stick to the plan all the time. In her words, life isn’t “cookie cutter” and we must be willing to go along with the journey.