Rachel Baker graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2009 with a BS in Molecular Biology and a minor in Classical Studies. During college, she spent a summer at University of Seattle Washington as an Amgen Scholar researching developmental processes in zebrafish. After graduating, she joined a lab focusing on resolving Old World avian phylogenies as a technician and student trainer at Loyola University Chicago. For the past three years, she has worked as a manager and staff trainer at a large veterinary hospital in Chicago. To gain more exposure to genetic counseling, she shadowed both prenatal and pediatric genetic counselors as well as connected with a counselor working in a non-traditional role. Additionally, she volunteered for The National Runaway Safeline as a hotline volunteer and with The Trevor Project as a TrevorChat counselor.
Casey Brew graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2015 with a BS in Molecular Biology and minors in Psychology and Biostatistics. During her undergraduate career, she conducted research in a Molecular Genetics cancer lab that focused on epigenetic changes in heterochromatic DNA and their effect on tumor development. Casey also worked as a peer tutor for Loyola’s Biology and Chemistry departments, and she has volunteered as a crisis liner for the National Runaway Safeline. She has also been fortunate enough to shadow prenatal, cancer, and pediatric genetic counselors in the Chicagoland area.
Jordan Brown graduated from George Mason University in 2015, earning a B.A. in History and a minor in Neuroscience. At Mason, she received two research grants to study the epigenetic inheritance of PTSD in Northern Ireland following The Troubles. Additionally, she worked as both a peer tutor at the GMU Writing Center and support to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The summer before her senior year, she had the opportunity to intern at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters Division of Medical Genetics and Metabolism, where she observed various pediatric genetic counselors and medical geneticists. Also while at CHKD, she assisted a genetic counselor and medical geneticist in conducting research and writing a case study for a patient with probable Ohdo Syndrome.
Remington Fenter graduated from Texas A&M University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Genetics and a minor in Psychology. At TAMU, he worked as a student worker and an undergraduate researcher in the Devearenne Plant Pathology lab studying the functional regions of genes that regulate apoptosis in plants. Remington spent 3 years performing diagnostic genetic testing as a Medical Genetics Technologist for a clinical laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, TX. While working at BCM, he was able to observe prenatal and pediatric genetic counselors from Texas Children’s Hospital. He also worked with Houston Tutorial Association to mentor junior high and high school students in Math and Science.
Kendra Frome graduated from Brigham Young University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Genetics and Biotechnology. As an undergraduate, she worked in the plant genetics lab in the Plant and Wildlife Sciences department at BYU finding Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in the Andean Tuber Crop Papalisa. She spent four months doing an internship in Peru working with plant genetics. She also spent 18 months in Brazil serving a mission for her church. This last year she shadowed a genetic counselor, volunteered with Special Olympics and a Special-Needs Preschool class, and did post-baccalaureate studies at BYU. She and her husband are from Oregon.
Lauren Gima graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology and a minor in Psychology. After graduation, she became a research associate for a UCSD gastroenterology lab working with mouse models of Crohn’s Disease. Lauren also volunteered at the Center for Community Solutions, working as a hotline counselor and shelter staff member to serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In addition, she had the opportunity to volunteer at The Painted Turtle camp where she supported children with serious medical conditions in a summer camp environment. To gain exposure to genetic counseling, Lauren shadowed prenatal and adult genetic counselors at UCSD, Rady Children’s Hospital, and the San Diego Navy Medical Center.
Shelby Koenig graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and minors in Psychology and Sociology. As an undergraduate, she worked as an interviewer at the Bureau of Sociological Research and as a research assistant in the sociology department. She was involved on campus as a Biochemistry Ambassador and an Honors Peer Mentor. In addition, Shelby completed an honors thesis which aimed to analyze the potential impact of state abortion laws on prenatal genetic counselors. During her time in Lincoln, she also volunteered at Voices of Hope, a local crisis line, and shadowed a genetic counselor at the Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center.
Gabriel Kringlen graduated from Grinnell College in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. While at Grinnell, Gabe was a member of the men's basketball and cross country teams, a violinist in the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra, a psychology peer mentor, and an outreach coordinator for Pioneer Diversity Council. Gabe interned at Integrated DNA Technologies. After Grinnell, Gabe moved to Los Angeles where he served as a City Year corps member, working with 5th grade students in south LA. After completing his service, he returned home and began working for the Arc of East Central Iowa, providing services to individuals with disabilities, and coached a 9th grade boys' basketball team. Gabe has shadowed pediatric genetic counselors from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Lauren Miller graduated from the University of Michigan in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology. At Michigan, she was an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Internal Medicine where she assisted on the HIV Lung Microbiome Project. During the summer of 2011 she volunteered in Ghana, providing health services and education and conducting research on the nation’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. After graduation, Lauren started work as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, working on two clinical research projects, one focusing on the early detection and prevention of Type 1 Diabetes, and the other on the long-term effects of hyperglycemia during pregnancy.
Shayna Purcell graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Studio Art. While in Chapel Hill she researched in a genetics laboratory, investigating the regulation of meiotic recombination in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Shayna volunteered at ABC of NC Child Development Center—a school for children with autism spectrum disorders—and was the vice-president of UNC’s chapter of Autism Speaks. She was an Admissions Ambassador at UNC, leading campus tours and recruitment events for prospective students and parents. Shayna had the opportunity to shadow prenatal and pediatric genetic counselors in Chapel Hill, as well as in her hometown of Winston-Salem, NC.
Theresa Sciaraffa graduated Magna Cum Laude from Loyola University Chicago in 2013 with a BS in Molecular Biology and minors in Bioethics and Spanish. While at Loyola, she worked for the Center for Tutoring and Academic Excellence, tutoring biology. Since graduating, she has been working at Presence St. Joseph Hospital Chicago as a secretary and certified nursing assistant in Outpatient Surgery, where she performs multiple tasks, including checking patients in for surgery and helping post-operatively to prepare them for discharge. She became exposed to genetic counseling when her cousin was diagnosed with DiGeorge Syndrome. Being a Chicago native, she interviewed and shadowed genetic counselors at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Evanston Hospital, and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Jennifer Thompson graduated from University of California, Irvine in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Genetics and a minor in Psychology. As an undergraduate, she interned at Planned Parenthood and volunteered at an after school program for teenagers with physical and developmental disabilities. After graduation, Jennifer worked as a medical assistant in a fertility office and volunteered at New Hope Grief Support, where she led grief support groups for young adults. For the past two years, Jennifer has worked at Ambry Genetics where she assisted genetic counselors with research and was involved with preparing abstracts and posters for conferences. Jennifer also shadowed genetic counselors in a cancer setting at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, CA.
Rebecca Wang graduated from UCLA in 2013 with a B.S. in Human Biology and Society. As a student, she was very involved with the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics and helped found the Society and Genetics Undergraduate Organization. Additionally, she was a member of the Genetic Counseling Student Interest Group, and presented a poster with the group at the 2013 NSGC Conference. Rebecca also taught an undergraduate seminar about forensic science and genetics through the Undergraduate Student Initiated Education program. She was active in volunteer work as well, teaching pregnancy prevention workshops in high schools and serving as a camp counselor for underserved youth. Since graduating, Rebecca has been working at Counsyl, a genetic testing laboratory, and volunteering at a suicide prevention hotline.
Elizabeth (Liz) Wignall graduated from the University of Iowa in December 2013 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a focus in Genetics and Biotechnology as well as a Spanish minor. At Iowa she worked as an undergraduate researcher studying Myoclonic epilepsy-ataxia syndrome on Drosophila melanogaster and is a coauthor on a paper resulting from her research. She volunteered for the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) assisting survivors of sexual assault through medical exams. After graduation she volunteered for The ZCenter in Gurnee, Illinois where she continued medical advocacy for survivors and started teaching sexual abuse prevention education for grades k-12 in accordance to Erin’s Law. To gain genetic counseling experience she shadowed at hospitals in Iowa City and in the Chicagoland area.
Class of 2018
Katherine (Katie) Cobian graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2016 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biological Sciences and Sociology. During her time at Notre Dame, Katie conducted social health research, served as the Vice President of her residential dormitory, and was active in service programs. In 2015, she worked as an intern for the Woodruff Lab at Northwestern University where she assisted in a project to assess the impact of cancer treatments on ovarian tissue. Katie interned for the Genetics and Risk Assessment Center at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center (SJRMC) in Mishawaka, Indiana where she shadowed genetic counselors in the fields of cancer, prenatal, and cardiology genetics; she also helped to manage SJRMC’s hereditary breast and ovarian cancer screening program.
Lenika De Simone graduated from Stanford University in 2012 with a B.A. in Human Biology. During undergrad, she volunteered at Arbor Free Clinic as a Spanish medical interpreter, was the team manager of the Stanford Women’s Gymnastics team, and studied the differentiation patterns of Drosophila stem cells. After college, she moved back to Madrid to obtain a master’s degree in Physical Anthropology. Her thesis focused on the effects of natural selection on human mitochondrial DNA and climate adaptation. She works at Counsyl, a biotech company that offers DNA screening and genetic counseling. Before college, Lenika was a member of the Spanish national gymnastics team and competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Nina Hann graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a BS in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. As an undergraduate, she was a lab technician and researcher in a genetics lab as well as a teaching assistant for an introductory biology course. After traveling for a year post-graduation, she began working at a developmental and behavioral pediatrics office and shadowing at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco and the UC Davis MIND Institute. There, she saw cases in many specialties including pediatrics, cancer and prenatal genetics. Nina also volunteered at the Women’s Cancer Resource Center where she provided emotional and practical support for women with cancer and their caregivers.
Meredith Heiss graduated from Reed College in 2012 with a BA in Psychology. While at Reed, Meredith chaired Honor Council and worked as a Housing Advisor. She conducted her thesis research on deception detection and false memories. After graduating from Reed, Meredith studied biology at the Harvard Extension School and University of Colorado, Denver. At UC Denver, Meredith worked in a lab studying translational regulation during development in Xenopus laevis. She also tutored students in genetics and taught supplemental instruction for general biology. Meredith volunteered for Special Olympics, Colorado and taught science lessons to 5th grade students.
Kristen Hughes graduated from the University of Illinois in 2016, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a minor in Chemistry. During her undergraduate career, she spent her time as a laboratory technician in a Behavioral Neuroscience lab that studies the effects of methamphetamine addiction on adolescent and adult rats. Kristen also worked as a peer advisor for the University of Illinois' Psychology Undergraduate Advising Office, assisting students with their academic careers. She spent her summers in Champaign working as a certified Emergency Medical Technician, and shadowed a pediatric genetic counselor at Carle Foundation Hospital in Champaign, Illinois.
Susheela (Sheela) Jayaraman graduated from DePauw University in 2016 with a BA in Biology with minors in chemistry and philosophy. During her undergraduate studies, she worked as a peer tutor in the Speaking and Listening Center. In addition, she served as a research assistant for the Biology Department at DePauw where she assisted on research projects including a neurobehavioral and molecular genetic projects. During her summers, Susheela worked as a Leadership Director/Counselor and Trip Leader for Camp Jorn YMCA in Manitowish Waters, WI. She has also been able to shadow medical genetic and cancer genetic counselors in the Indianapolis and Chicagoland area.
Tara Jones graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) in 2010 with a B.S. in Biology. During her undergraduate career, she attended a quarter abroad in Costa Rica, where she completed an independent research project. She was an avid member of the Backpacking Club at UCSC and volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters Afterschool Program. Since graduating, Tara secured a mentorship with a genetic counselor at Kaiser and interned at Cedars Sinai’s GenRisk program, where she gained shadowing experience and attended grand rounds. She volunteered as a patient advocate for Cedars Sinai’s Heart Transplant Center and as a crisis counselor for Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Prevention Hotline. Tara hails from Southern California and her passions include cooking, rock climbing, and dancing.
Anastasia Kathrens-Gallardo graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Spanish. As an undergraduate, she volunteered on a parent stress line with Canopy Center and as a student supporter with Badger SPILL, an email-based peer support system. Additionally, she volunteered as a tutor with Schools of Hope and as a summer day camp volunteer. During the fall of her senior year, she studied in Seville, Spain where she was involved with the T-oigo organization as an “Ally in English,” working with a four-year-old girl with hearing loss to improve her English. She has also shadowed cancer, pediatric, and prenatal genetic counselors in Madison, Minneapolis, and Chicago.
Madelyn Katz graduated from Brandeis University in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in Economics and Psychology and a minor in Business. After graduating, she served as a City Year corps member, tutoring and mentoring 6th grade students in New York City. The following year, she completed a post-baccalaureate pre-health program at Fordham University, while teaching part-time at the Rodeph Sholom After School program and volunteering with a genetic counselor at the Center for Skeletal Dysplasias at the Hospital for Special Surgery. She is currently working as an embryology lab assistant at an IVF clinic in New York City. She also volunteers for RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Megan Knapke graduated from the Ohio State University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Genetics and a minor in psychology. As an undergraduate, Megan worked as an intern at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, assisting genetic counselors with their clinical research focusing on the genetic causes of congenital heart disease and papillary thyroid cancer. In addition to research, Megan volunteered for organizations such as The Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio, Franklin County Suicide Prevention Services, The Heart Hope Foundation, and the OhioHealth Cancer Genetics Department. On campus, she served as President of the Undergraduate Genetic Counseling Club, a club that she started her sophomore year of college.
Weilong Li graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a BS in Biological Sciences and a BA in Theatre. During his time at the University of Maryland, he worked as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in introductory biology, as well as researching the impacts of flow rates and solvent composition on the formation of droplets in microfluidic chips. He shadowed and interviewed different genetic counselors in the Baltimore region. Weilong has also worked with students at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., mentoring and guiding these students to help them create a showcase of student derived work. In addition, Weilong has acted in, directed, produced, written, and designed multiple theatre productions through University of Maryland.
Ruben Alejandro Martin graduated from the University of California at Irvine in 2014 with a BS in Biological Sciences. While an undergraduate, he worked as a researcher in a Huntington's Disease laboratory, leading a project to determine the relative pathology of several polyglutamine neurodegenerative disorders. Additionally, Ruben mentored underprivileged students in Santa Ana, CA and worked with several social activist organizations on campus. After his time at UC Irvine, he worked a variety of jobs, including a position as an approved relative caregiver to take care of his elderly grandparents. Ruben also volunteered at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, CA where he was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to shadow genetic counselors in a cancer setting.
Nora Nashawaty graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in 2015 with a B.S. in Genetics, Cell Biology and Development and a minor in Leadership. As an undergraduate at the UMN, she raised awareness of marginalized and underprivileged communities through her work in Al-Madinah Cultural Center, as a Leadership Minor teaching assistant, in national activist networks including the Muslim American Society, and as an Orientation Leader. Nora also interned at Sojourner Project, advocating for and counseling victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking, and leading community education programs at local middle schools. She was first exposed to genetics in high school and chose to pursue genetic counseling after shadowing genetic counselors through MN Oncology.
Min Seon Park graduated from University of California, San Diego in 2014 with a BS in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. While at UCSD, she was an undergraduate research assistant at Salk Institute, where she assisted the postdoctoral fellow with his research on spermatogonial stem cells. She was also a teaching assistant for an introductory biology class, and an intern at Cognitive and Neurobehavioral Studies in Aggression, Coping, Trauma and Stress (CNS-Acts) research program at UCSD. After graduation, Min Seon went back to South Korea and worked as an intern at Genomic Medicine Institute at Seoul National University, where she was involved in NGS and GWAS research projects. To gain more insight in genetic counseling profession, she attended the 2015 NSGC AEC at Pittsburgh.
Amy Plaut graduated from the University of Michigan in 2011 with a dual BA in Anthropology and Spanish. During college, she spent a summer interning with the Genetic Alliance in Washington, D.C., and subsequently did research on neonatal bio banking at the Michigan School of Public Health. Since graduation she has worked both in media and as a medical assistant. She is also a certified rape crisis counselor and tutors high school students in standardized testing, biology and Spanish.
Karen Schmitz graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in 2014 with a BA in Biology and a minor in Hispanic Studies. As an undergraduate she worked as a teacher’s assistant in the Biology department, assisting first-year students during their intro lab course. After graduation she moved to Chicago and completed two years of service with AmeriCorps. In 2014-2015 she volunteered at Franciscan Outreach, an organization that provides services to the homeless, and in 2015-2016 she served with Project YES, assisting in high school Chemistry and Biology classes, and organizing community service trips for students. Karen had the opportunity to shadow prenatal and cancer genetic counselors in Chicago as well as Sioux Falls South Dakota.
Carey Sentman graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biology and a minor in Medicine in Society. At F&M Carey worked as a teaching assistant for the biology department and a supplemental instruction leader for the college’s Quantitative and Science Center (Q&SC). She spent 2 years conducting public health research on genetic disorders in the Amish and Mennonite populations of Lancaster County and subsequently published a parent’s handbook on congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Post-graduation, Carey spent a year managing the Q&SC at F&M, expanding student programming. Carey then completed a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA at The Reynolds Refugee Center and Community School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, coordinating volunteers and developing programming focused on refugee parent and student integration.
Nicolette Sookar graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with a B.A. in Molecular Biology and a minor in Classical Studies. Her freshman summer she worked at the Perelman School of Medicine assisting in the design of a mouse model for Parkinson’s disease. She spent the rest of her undergraduate years at the Perelman School working with zebrafish. She worked on using the CRISPR/Cas9 protocol to mutate a gene involved in a cranial disorder in children. After graduating she worked on a number of projects involving human genetics. While at Penn, she was very involved with dance and volunteer projects. She has also worked very closely for a number of years with both children and young adults on the autism spectrum.
Brittany Szymaniak graduated from Nazareth College of Rochester in 2011, earning a B.S. in Biochemistry. As an undergraduate she participated in various outreach programs, such as Partners for Serving, where she worked with women at a chemical dependency clinic, and Homework Help, a tutoring initiative for preventing the dropout of at-risk high school students. She then went on to receive her PhD in Genetics from University of Rochester in 2016, completing her dissertation work on a rare neurodegenerative disease, Ataxia-telangiectasia. As a graduate student, she continued her efforts in both science education, participating in the national Brain Awareness campaign, and outreach with Friends of Strong. She also had the opportunity to shadow genetic counselors and an oncologist at Strong Memorial Hospital.
Alice Zalan graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2016 earning a BS in Biology and a BA in Sociology. As an undergraduate, she tutored and mentored youth in various charter schools in San Diego through Education Corps and the Preuss School at UCSD. This past year she started volunteering with the Center for Community Solutions as a hotline and walk-in client responder. She studied abroad in Denmark where she worked in a Cell and Neurobiology Laboratory discovering the GPCR pathway for a novel neuropeptide. Alice also had both the opportunity to shadow laboratory genetic counselors while interning with Ambry Genetics over the summer in addition to observing prenatal genetic counselors at the UCSD Fetal Care and Genetics Center.