Our Founding Director

Celebrating A Life: Honoring Jack G. Chirikjian

Dr. Jack Gregory Chirikjian, the founding director of Georgetown’s Masters in Biotechnology Program, passed away peacefully surrounded by family at his home in Washington, D.C., on September 30, 2018, shortly before his 78th birthday.

Born in 1940 to Armenian parents in Cairo, Egypt, he emigrated in 1959 to the United Slates, where he achieved the quintessential American Dream and was a proud patriot of his adoptive country. Dr. C, as so many lovingly called him, was a professor of biochemistry for 46 years at Georgetown University, where he touched the lives of countless students and won numerous awards. His capstone achievement was the establishment of the Master’s in Biotechnology Program. He was also a successful entrepreneur and founded no less than seven biotechnology companies spanning education and research. Jack was a dedicated researcher and owned numerous patents throughout his career. 

Below is a brief timeline of notable moments in Jack’s life.

1940-1959 Egypt


Born Mergedij Gregory Chirikjian in Cairo, Egypt, of Armenian descent on December 10, shortly before failed invasions by Nazi Germany during WWII

Attends private Catholic schools

Son of Armenian genocide survivor

Dr. C’s father owned a Cairo tailor shop renowned for its quality

Dr. C at graduation


Name changed to Jack G. Chirikjian (after Jack Kennedy) at immigration border

Immigrates to US in December 1959; educational journey in the U.S. begins

Attends Trenton State College on scholarship

Dr. C earns his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Rutgers in 1969, starts postdoc at Princeton

Jack lecturing


Accepts position as Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center in 1972 (the Basic Science Building was new!)

Obtains tenured professorship after 5 years

JGC in office


Serial entrepreneur journey begins:

Establishes The Bethesda Research Laboratory (BRL) Inc., predecessor to Life Technologies Inc., in 1975

Founds Oncor (Oncology Corporation) in 1983; develops early BRAC1/BRAC2 diagnostics for a total of 7 companies: BRL Inc., ONCOR, Capitol Biotek Consulting, EdvoTek, TreviGen, DNA Depot, Amelia Technologies

JGC started biotech teacher training


Leader in biotechnology education

Awarded National Science Foundation grant for teacher training in the area of biotechnology

Founds EDVOTEK Inc.

Jack and the REALLY big pencil


Founds the M.S. in Biochemistry, one of the first master’s in the field, with an inaugural class of seven students

Jack with students


Master’s program celebrates 10 years

Master’s program name changes to M.S. in Biotechnology

20-year anniversary group photo


Biotechnology Program celebrates 20 years of “Making Science Our Business”



Continues his full-time workload after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016, and continues his dedication to students

Dr. Chirikjian graduated over 800 master’s students before he lost the battle with cancer on September 30.