• What does a brighter future mean to you?

    Connect with James Madison University and learn more about how our people and programs are making positive change in the world

    Subscribe to Madison; share your thoughts about the future on the Be the Change blog; or perhaps you'd like to nominate a world changer to be featured on this site.

    Consider this your invitation to
    Be the Change.


Join us to Be the Change


John Horigan ('04)

Pairing science and ethics

Photo: John Horigan ('04)

John Horigan set out to study international business and foreign languages, dreaming of fine suits and life in France. Instead, he says he wound up wearing torn jeans, flannel shirts and studying birds in early morning hours. As a freshman, Horigan was enthused by a meeting with biology professor Norm Garrison and enrolled in a sampling of biology courses. Under the instruction of biology associate professor Susan Halsell, Horigan says he "fell in love with genetics and thought I'd go on to pursue a Ph.D." When he joined the university Honor Council, an interest in ethics blossomed. "I came to the realization that a lot of what I was doing as a scientist-in-training, wasn't only going to impact science," he says. "It had much broader implications for the world." This lead Horigan to pursue an M.A. in philosophy and social policy, followed by a career at the National Rehabilitation Hospital investigating new methods of diagnosing Parkinson's disease and studying the psychological response of pediatric patients to robotic stimuli. But, it was at the Emmes Corporation where Horigan found the perfect pairing of science and ethics. There he works to ensure ethical treatment of patients participating in clinical trials at hospitals and universities nationwide. On his ever-changing path, Horigan wants to pursue a Ph.D. in bioethics. He dreams of returning to JMU, where teaching at his alma mater would be the "ultimate experience."

As a guest lecturer at JMU, Horigan tells students to take full advantage of their time at the university: "Keep an open mind, take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, because you don't know where your next [one] will lead."