Class of 2025
Carolina Gomez Rodriguez (Richmond, VA) earned her B.S in Biology with an emphasis in cellular science from Old Dominion University in Virginia. She volunteered as a research laboratory assistant for two graduate research projects. She assisted with the study of honeybee visitation rates on varying degrees of ulraviolet flora, and she aided in the study of the effects of stressors on the symbiotic relationship of coral and zooxanthellae. Carolina was a student senator in the Student Government Association where she represented and advocated for five thousand students. She was a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Public Affairs and Recruitment Committee. After graduation, Carolina worked at Virginia League for Planned Parenthood where she received crisis counseling training and trauma informed care training. Later, she worked at a private obstetrics and gynecology practice where she partnered with laboratory genetic counselors from Myriad Genetics and Natera, and prenatal genetic counselors in Maternal Fetal Medicine. This firsthand experience shaped her interest in prenatal and pediatric genetic counseling; therefore, Carolina is looking forward to combining her passion for genetic anomalies with emerging families and young children.
Christian Pareja (Des Plaines, IL) earned his B.S. in Biology and minors in Neuroscience and Psychology from Butler University in 2022. As an undergraduate, he worked as a teacher-therapist intern at Englishton Park Summer Camp where he worked with children with developmental and behavioral disabilities. Christian received direct genetic counseling exposure as a student intern for Advocate Genetics and as a genomic correspondence intern with Clover Genetics. He served as the philanthropy chairman of the Epsilon Mu chapter of Sigma Nu, coordinating philanthropic efforts for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Habitat for Humanity, and Campaign Zero. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to work as a Genetic Counseling Assistant for Reproductive Genetic Innovations where he was responsible for the case-coordination of patients undergoing preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy, monogenic disorders, and structural rearrangements. In his free time, he enjoys spending time outdoors, especially climbing, hiking, and camping. Christian looks forward to cultivating his passion for genetics and health care as a genetic counselor while working to increase the accessibility of genetic testing and championing the reproductive rights of his patients.
Clarice Danen (Milwaukee, WI) earned her B.S. in Genetics & Genomics, and German from the University of Wisconsin- Madison in 2021, with an honors in research distinction. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant studying hybrid breakdown in male reproduction between recently diverged Drosophila melanogaster and completed her thesis on a similar topic, exploring how hybrid breakdown can result in incompatibilities leading to sterility. Clarice also worked as a teaching assistant for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences- QuickStart Program for incoming college freshmen. Clarice volunteered as a family interaction specialist with the Canopy Center; a non-profit organization that works with children who have been removed from their homes due to child abuse and/or neglect. After graduation, she continued her volunteer work with the Canopy Center as well as taking on another volunteer role as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line. After graduation, Clarice began working as a laboratory genetic counseling assistant at Prevention Genetics. Clarice is highly interested in pediatric genetics and epigenetics and is passionate about raising awareness around genetic counseling and making genetic testing more accessible in healthcare.
Emily Lutz (Salt Lake City, UT) earned her B.S. in Cell and Developmental Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2019. During her time as an undergraduate student, she worked as a Resident Assistant for two years and held an internship in both a Marine Biology and Ecology lab. Following graduation, Emily moved to Salt Lake City to work at ARUP Laboratories as a Medical Laboratory Technologist. She earned her Chemistry Categorical Certification from the American Society of Clinical Pathologists while employed in the Clinical Toxicology Department focused on drugs of abuse and pain management. It was through her work at ARUP Laboratories that she first learned of Genetic Counseling. Emily also had the opportunity to volunteer as a Victim Advocate at a local domestic violence shelter, South Valley Services, where she learned to assist members of the community undergoing dramatic life changes and hardships. Emily was honored to have serve as Healthy Equity Co-Chair for the American Cancer Society event, Colors of Cancer, in 2022 and 2023. This event was the centerpiece of the Allied Initiative which focused on addressing disparities in cancer prevention, diagnosis, prognosis, and outcomes for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Emily is excited to expand her counseling skills and to interact directly with patients in the clinical setting. She hopes to continue to call Salt Lake City her home.
Jessica Lockhart (Fayetteville, NC) earned her B.S. in Medical Laboratory Science from Brigham Young University, Provo in 2019. During her undergraduate, she found a love for Entomology where she worked as a research assistant in two different labs researching tiger moth larvae diets and the effects of introducing honeybees on the native bumblebee populations. She also had the wonderful opportunities to work as a teaching assistant for biology and chemistry courses. She has worked in Salt Lake City for the past 4 years as a Medical Laboratory Scientist in pediatric transfusion and in chemistry testing/research development for preterm births. She also fueled her passion for teaching by working as Adjunct Teaching Faculty for the Medical Laboratory Science program at BYU. Jessica has been volunteering at the Utah Aids Foundation and at the Salt Lake Rape Recovery Center as a Mobile Response Advocate, where she was able to become a certified crisis counselor through the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She has loved learning about people’s diverse backgrounds and unique experiences. She has especially loved advocating for those whose voices are often not heard, which is what drew her towards the Genetic Counseling field. Jessica is hopeful to make genetic testing a more affordable and routine part of healthcare and hopes to work together with the community to provide more resources for those who have genetic conditions.
Katie Lauro (Los Angeles, CA) earned her B.S. in Human Biology with minors in Bioethics and Women and Gender Studies from Michigan State University (MSU) in 2021. While at MSU, she completed a capstone project on the barriers patients face accessing cancer-related genetic testing and counseling services. Katie also conducted research in a genetic engineering lab, where she studied the use of extracellular vesicles in gene therapy techniques for cancer and type 1 diabetes. During her undergraduate career, Katie served as president of the MSU Human Biology Club, volunteered at Sparrow Hospital, and supported persons in crisis as a resident assistant and text line counselor. She developed her interest in disability-based advocacy by volunteering for the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities at MSU, tutoring for children with disabilities, and volunteering at a therapeutic horseback riding center. After graduation, Katie began working at Genome Medical as a genetic counseling assistant, where she wrote genetic counseling appointment reports and handled communications with patients, healthcare systems, and laboratories across the country. Katie hopes to continue the work of her capstone project in her future career by contributing to an increase in the accessibility and equitability of genetic counseling services.
Liz Guiney (Park City, UT) earned her B.S. in Genetics and minors in Anthropology and Spanish from the University of New Hampshire (summa cum laude, 2013). As an undergraduate, she competed for UNH’s Division I Nordic ski team and served as a captain in her junior and senior years. In 2013, she was awarded the Elite 89 award, for the highest-achieving student-athlete at NCAA Championships. After graduation, Liz pursued a professional Nordic ski racing career, representing the US at nine World Cup competitions. While racing, Liz coached participants of all ages in skiing and biking and volunteered with several organizations working to improve access to sports for underrepresented individuals. Liz moved on from ski racing in 2020 and has since worked for two years as a genetic counseling assistant at Igenomix, a preimplantation genetic testing laboratory. She has volunteered for IMAlive, as an online crisis counselor, and with the National Ability Center, helping with outdoor recreation programs for individuals with disabilities. Liz is excited to work in a clinical setting and is passionate about expanding access to genetic testing and counseling services. She loves the outdoors, and when not working or studying, can be found running, biking, or skiing.
Malia Olson (Crested Butte, CO) earned her B.A. in Biology and minor in Psychology (summa cum laude) from Regis University. She attended Regis on a full-tuition leadership scholarship and wrote her honors thesis on how beliefs about masculinity can contribute to men’s reluctance to seek healthcare. While at Regis, she worked for Regis’ Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention to prevent sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. She was elected Student Body President and held a position within the Women’s and Gender Studies department to develop and deliver introductory trainings on gender and sexuality. Malia was involved in two genetic research labs at Regis studying nematode development and factors involved in activating transcription of noncoding RNAs. She also spent summers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory with the University of South Carolina studying butterflies. Following graduation, Malia worked as a Clinical Laboratory Processing Technician at National Jewish Health, a respiratory hospital that offers treatment and research for pulmonary, cardiac, and immune conditions. She worked as a genetic counseling assistant and intern for two cancer genetic counseling clinics. She is passionate about expanding access to genetic counseling in rural communities and investigating how gender norms can act as barriers to care.
Melissa Guziak (Salt Lake City, UT) earned a B.A. in Biology from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2014 and M. Ed. from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2019. In her graduate program she studied prevention science and practice in adolescent education. Her education led her to work in various community settings with adolescents. She worked for five years as a wilderness therapy field guide with teenagers, backpacking and camping in eastern Utah while teaching social emotional coping skills. She transitioned to the field of genetics after exploring alternative roles for counselors in community settings. Melissa has worked as a Genetic Counseling Assistant at Huntsman Cancer Institute since 2022. She volunteers with the National Ability Center, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, and Guadalupe School. She enjoys finding challenges and creating community in the outdoors; biking, hiking, and skiing around the state. She has completed three major thru-hikes across the US, backpacking over 7000 miles in 4-5 month stretches. Melissa is looking forward to learning more about the role of genetic counseling in rural healthcare and small community settings in the Mountain West region.
Stephanie Duret (San Francisco, CA) earned her BS in Biological Sciences and minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2019. As an undergraduate, she held various positions that explored her passion for teaching, including volunteering as a teacher’s assistant in a Spanish dual-immersion classroom and working as a STEM educator for Bright Futures, a YMCA after-school program. She also volunteered as a crisis counselor and advocate for legal clients at Stand Strong, an organization supporting community members experiencing intimate partner violence. After graduation, Stephanie furthered her advocacy experience by volunteering as a telephone counselor at Safe & Sound with the goal of improving the well-being of children and caregivers through education and advocacy. She also held an internship at Roche Molecular Systems, where she supported a team of life science communications professionals focusing on diagnostic solutions in the areas of women’s health, infectious diseases, and oncology. She then worked as a clinical research coordinator at the UCSF Department of Ophthalmology, where she coordinated research studies and clinical trials focusing on inherited retinal degenerations and the use of adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscopy to characterize disease progression. Stephanie is looking forward to learning more about the role of genetic counselors in multidisciplinary clinics and in the public health sector.
Class of 2024
Makenna Beigh (Sacramento, CA) earned her B.A. in Human Biology & Society from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2019, where she spent the majority of her undergraduate career exploring social determinants of health and healthcare access. She completed a summer public policy program in her hometown of Sacramento where she interned for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and conducted research on the intersection of poverty, nutrition, food access, and nutrition-related health outcomes. Upon exploring her interests in psychological and psychiatric disorders, Makenna interned at an early intervention center for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, where she discovered her love for pediatrics and mental healthcare. Makenna also served as the chapter president of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, in which her fierce work to combat sexual assault on campus earned her the 2018 Panhellenic President of the Year award. After graduating, she served as a genetic counseling intern at UCSF’s Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program, where she provided research efforts to identify and address disparities in germline testing for men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Makenna is passionate about equity in medicine and hopes to extend the power of genomic medicine to underserved and overlooked populations, including those afflicted by addiction, severe mental illness, and adoption.
Anneka Ecker (Minneapolis, MN) earned her BS in Biology and minor in Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2020. During her time as an undergraduate she worked in a research laboratory at 3M as a research assistant. Anneka also volunteered for the Tubman center, a shelter for battered women and children, as a resource counseling advocate. After graduation she continued her volunteer work at the Tubman center as well as taking on another volunteer role with the genetic counseling team at MHealth Fairview hospital. Her role in this position was to help the genetic counselors organize and submit genetic variants to the ClinVar database. Anneka also became the first genetic counseling assistant (GCA) at the Mayo Clinic where she supported genetic counselors in the Genetic Testing and Counseling Unit and the Predictive Genetics Clinic. She also worked on many genetic research projects at the Mayo Clinic such as the Biobank and Tapestry study with the goal of sequencing the DNA of as many patients as possible to further the advances of genetics in healthcare. Anneka is excited to apply her experience working with marginalized communities through her roles at Tuman and the Mayo Clinic to become an advocate for increased access to genetic counseling for all patients regardless of race, class, culture, or ability.
Emma Fosbinder (Wailuku, HI), received her BS in Anthropology with an emphasis in Human Biology from the University of Arizona (magna cum laude, 2021). Her thesis research was titled “The Ethical Considerations of Genetic Research and Genetic Testing: Best Practices”. As an undergraduate, she was a research intern with the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology on a project investigating the lived experiences of young adults with disabilities during their transitions to adulthood. Emma was also an Undergraduate Teaching Coordinator for a math course, a preceptor for an organic chemistry course, and a volunteer for an emergency room where she provided emotional support to patients and their families. Following graduation, Emma worked with youth as a substitute teacher and ocean sports instructor. She combined her research and work experience to volunteer for an organization working to improve access to ocean sports for individuals with physical disabilities and expanded her advocacy experience by volunteering as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line. Emma would like to work in a clinical setting and is passionate about informed consent, empowering underrepresented populations in the field of genetics, and improving access to genetic counseling in underserved communities.
Hannah Hart (Fort Collins, CO), received her BS in Neuroscience and Biology from Wartburg College in Waverly, IA (summa cum laude, 2020) and was named Outstanding Senior in Neuroscience. She played soccer while at Wartburg, attending the NCAA tournament all four years and serving as captain her senior year. Throughout college, she volunteered with the local memory care home, groups working closely with kids with chronic illness and disabilities, and an organization training service dog. After graduating, she worked with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and 211 to aid and empower those in crisis. Hannah participated in research throughout her undergraduate work, taking special interest in neurodegenerative diseases. Her projects investigated stress reduction in Alzheimer’s Disease through familiar music, the influence of GM1 ganglioside in Huntington’s Disease, the progression of memory errors in Alzheimer’s Disease, and amyloid beta accumulation following traumatic brain injuries. For the last two years, she has worked closely with families with Huntington’s Disease, helping them integrate and contribute to research. Hannah has an interest in neurogenetics, and she looks forward to contributing to genetic counseling’s leadership in making healthcare more inclusive and equitable.
Sarah Nelson (Salt Lake City, UT) received her BS in Biology and Psychology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Utah. As an undergraduate she volunteered at the Rape Recovery Center. She worked both on the phone with the crisis line and responded to emergency rooms to advocate for survivors. She has worked with first responders experiencing PTSD, advocating, and supporting them. For 4 ½ years, Sarah has volunteered with the VA. She started in the outpatient PTSD clinic, helping veterans through the process. Currently, she is volunteering in the Genomics Department. Sarah is passionate about science communications. She loves to help people discover science through drawings, animations and hands on through her 3D printed models. She is looking forward to learning about cytogenetics and genetic counseling in a laboratory setting.
Cedar Palaia (Minneapolis, MN), graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development in 2021. As an undergraduate, he worked as a research assistant at the Lillehei Heart Institute for a cardiac regeneration research lab and a wild rice breeding, genetics, and conservation research lab. He volunteered for the Crisis Text Line counseling individuals experiencing mental health crises and was actively involved in the University of Minnesota genetic counseling program, volunteering and shadowing in various GCA roles. Upon graduation, he worked as a genetic counseling assistant for PreventionGenetics writing genetic testing reports as well as volunteering for the Wisconsin Special Olympics as a sports coach. In his free time, Cedar enjoys doing any activity outdoors but especially hiking, fishing, camping, cooking, and golfing. He is excited to combine his passion for genetics and healthcare on his journey to becoming a genetic counselor.
Sierra Pond (Salt Lake City, UT) earned her BS in biology with a molecular emphasis from Loyola University Chicago in 2017 (magna cum laude). During her years in Chicago, she worked in a research lab studying methylation patterns of heterochromatic regions of human chromosome 21. Sierra served as the executive vice president and president of the Theta Mu chapter of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, championing philanthropy efforts and career development. After graduation, Sierra moved to Jackson, Wyoming where she worked as the lead medical assistant for a local family practice provider. She simultaneously worked for a local family planning non-profit, coordinating fundraising efforts and community outreach. Sierra subsequently returned to Salt Lake City and began working for Shriners Children’s as their Multidisciplinary Clinic Coordinator. In this role, she has worked to expand specialty clinic offerings and assist in the development of access for genetic services. Sierra enjoys recreating in the mountains and volunteers with a local nonprofit to bring children with amputations into outdoor spaces for recreational and occupational therapy. Sierra has a strong interest in pediatric neuromuscular genetic counseling and sees herself working in multidisciplinary clinics for patients with complex care needs.
Madison Rumsey (Sandy, UT), received her BS in Biology from the University of Utah in 2019. During her undergraduate career, she worked as a clinical lab assistant at Primary Children’s Hospital, later moving into the send out department to gain more experience with genetic testing. She is a genetic counseling intern, where she applies data utilization and management to support the laboratory genetic counselors at Intermountain Healthcare. She is also a member of the Genetic Lab Stewardship Committee, which inspired her to start the first newsletter at Intermountain highlighting the importance of stewardship with genetic testing. To be more involved in her community, she began volunteering as an HIV prevention counselor at the Utah AIDS Foundation where she gained a great deal of experience helping individuals from a variety of backgrounds overcome the barriers of accessing healthcare. In addition, she has volunteered at the Murray Greenhouse Foundation, which is a center for special needs adults who have aged out of the school system. The combination of these experiences have helped shape her mindset and offered different perspectives for providing her future patients with the best care possible. She is interested in learning more about the different roles of laboratory genetic counselors and continuing to help underserved communities access health care.
Tatum Vilaboy (Tempe, AZ) received her BS from Arizona State University in 2021 in genetics, cell and developmental biology and a certificate in law and human behavior. While in undergrad, she researched the energy metabolism of heliobacteria and completed and defended a thesis project on using genetic engineering of hydrogen production to better understand heliobacteria physiology. She also volunteered as a crisis counselor, responding in a mobile unit with Tempe police and fire department to assist those experiencing crisis and provide resources. Additionally, she worked as tutor, a softball pitching coach, an after-school mentor for at risk youth in her community, and a pharmacy technician at CVS. During the summers, she volunteered as a camp counselor for a summer camp designed for children affected by cancer or developmental disabilities, both in-person and virtual. Since graduating, she begun working as a medical scribe for a pediatric geneticist, shadowed genetic counselors, and continued her volunteer experiences where she enjoys working with different populations who hold varying perspectives. Tatum is looking forward to using her clinical genetic counseling skills to bring the patient perspective on genetic conditions and testing into the public health and policy sector.
Grace Wilson (Portage, WI) received her Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2020. Her research primary involved studying the metabolic effects of herbicides on mouse liver enzymes, as well as conducting an independent study on the chemical relationship between ants and S. canadensis, where she presented at the Seven Rivers Symposium in 2020. During undergrad, she enjoyed working as a laboratory assistant for the Microbiology department and being an Organic Chemistry TA. Grace was inducted into the Tri Beta National Honor Society in 2020 and graduated from the honors program at St. Mary’s. She is passionate about advocating for people who have disabilities and has spent many hours working and volunteering at group homes, nursing homes, and for Special Olympics. Upon her graduation, she spent time working as a special education teacher assistant before joining Prevention Genetics laboratory in Marshfield, WI as a laboratory genetic counselor assistant. Grace is highly interested in pediatric genetics and epigenetics and is passionate about making genetic testing more accessible and routine in healthcare.