Georgetown Biotechnology Starts 2021 With New Beginnings

Most of us looked forward to the year 2020 ending, and all are hopeful that Covid-19 will be under control some time in 2021, especially with the development and approval of two vaccines before last year’s end.  No one knows for sure what will happen exactly, or when it will happen, but we all know that every January 1, marks the start of a new year – a new beginning.


The Georgetown Biotechnology Program experienced a new beginning this spring semester with a change of leadership. Doctor Ivica Labuda, who teaches Food Biotechnology and is a long-time member of the Program’s adjunct faculty, recently took the reins and is the current Program Director when Dr. James Hawkins stepped down at the end of fall 2020.

Ivica Labuda, PhD
Biotechnology Program Director
Georgetown University School of Medicine

Doctor Labuda has been part of the Program almost since its inception.  In 1998, she met the late Dr. Jack Chirikjian, the Program’s Founding Director, through a colleague. He was looking to round out the program in the area of food biotechnology and invited her to be a guest lecturer. That one lecture developed into a new course and, as they say, the rest is history.  Please read her Bio here.

Kyle DiVito, PhD
Associate Director of Biotechnology
Georgetown University School of Medicine

Doctor DiVito, Assistant Professor, was announced as Associate Director of Biotechnology, replacing Vasna Nontanovan, who retired in November 2020.  Doctor DiVito is an alumnus of the Program and was the last person hired, in 2018, by the founding director of the Biotechnology Program Dr. Jack Chirikjian.  His current scientific interests lie in both skin cancer and biomedical engineering and is course director for a number of courses within the Program. Please read his Bio here.


As the world begins the third decade of the 21st Century, the Program is rounding the corner to celebrating 25 years in 2022.  Dr. Labuda, along with the full support of the Program faculty and staff will continue to carry out the essence of what Dr. Chirikjian envisioned:  To prepare young adults for the biotechnology industry workforce in a nurturing environment – to consider and care for the whole person consistent with the Georgetown School of Medicine’s credo of Cura Personalis.

Dr. Labuda hopes to help expand the program in new and exciting directions and to equip our students with all the tools they need to succeed in the ever-growing field of biotechnology.  Together with all of the faculty and staff, she will work to continue giving students a strong foundation in science and business and guide them towards diverse, challenging opportunities within this booming field.


The world has endured much in 2020, and we are always reminded to return to the fine art of gratitude to regain well-being. We wish to echo Biochemistry Department Chair Dr. Elliott Crooke’s sentiment in his announcement to students:

Dr. Hawkins took the leadership position of the Biotechnology program after the sudden passing of the program’s founding director, Dr. Jack Chirikjian in the autumn of 2018.  We are grateful to Dr. Hawkins for taking the reins of the Program and guiding the program over the last two years. In particular, we are thankful for his leadership over these last eight months which were incredibly challenging to the faculty and the students.

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated many challenges to higher education.  Some changes are here to stay and others will come to light. We must remind ourselves that “the only constant in life is change.”  We will survive the pandemic, and we will come out stronger. Together we can win and will continue to learn.

By: Vasna Nontanovan, MS (Associate Director of Biotechnology, emeritus)