Georgetown Scientific Research Journal GSR Journal
Jan LaRocque, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Science in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Professor LaRocque has taught and currently teaches Introduction to Genetics and Genomics, Language of Health and Disease, Genetics in Health and Disease, and Genome Instability and Human Disease. Her research focuses on DNA damage and repair using Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. Dr. LaRocque received her Bachelor in Science from the University of South Carolina and her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She finished her Post-Doc training at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City where she also taught several semesters of Biology and Human Biology.
Involvement in Research:
Dr. LaRocque’s research interests involve genomics and DNA stability. In particular, her research focuses on genome instability and what causes genomes to be unstable at the molecular level. One such instability in DNA is caused by double-strand breaks which can be detrimental to the organism. Using fruit flies as a research model, she studies the fundamental biological principles and human diseases that are associated with double-strand breaks and genome integrity.
Dr. LaRocque started her scientific career as an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina in a microecology lab. She really enjoyed learning how to manipulate and interpret data in her undergraduate years. However, she soon realized that she wanted to learn less about ecology and more about the genetics and molecular side of biology. Therefore, when applying to graduate school, Professor LaRoque picked a genetic molecular biology lab with a wonderful mentor who was using fruit flies to study DNA repair. Because of her experience in graduate school, she wanted to continue her Post-Doc studies of genomic integrity in relation to cancer using mammalian cells. Furthermore, during her Post-Doc years, Professor LaRocque also picked up an adjunct course and realized her love for teaching along with research. Upon completing her Post-Doc, she looked for a position where she could teach students with a liberal arts background while continuing to do her research. She feels so lucky to have ended up at Georgetown where the undergraduate community is extremely supportive and collaborative.
Reflecting on her journey, Dr. LaRocque would not want to change any part of her experiences and feels so fortunate to be able to say so. She loves what she does in research and teaching and feels blessed to have such a supportive community at Georgetown. Although it has taken her some time to adjust to the slower pace of research in the undergraduate community, she understands her part in a vital mission to train the next generation of scientists and students.
Advice for Students:
Dr. LaRocque’s valuable advice to students is to find a good mentor, whether it be in undergraduate or graduate school. She is extremely grateful to the mentors that have helped her in her scientific endeavors and still discusses science with her mentor from graduate school to this day. However, Dr. LaRocque wants to remind students that it takes time not only to build relationships with mentors but also to find the right person with the patience and time. She encourages students to find a mentor that perks their interests and gives them time and space to explore.