Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Center for Genetic Medicine

Meet Our Students


2019

Katherine Abihider

Undergrad: University of California, San Diego, Human Biology

Upon graduation, Katie worked for the Athena Breast Health Network, a multisite collaboration at University of California aimed at improving breast health. One of her main projects was implementing a personalized risk assessment in the mammography clinic to apply an intervention for women at increased risk for breast cancer. She then was promoted to lead the Wisdom Study at UCSD, a clinical trial using population genetic testing to inform personalized screening mammogram schedules. In her tenure with Wisdom, she especially enjoyed working closely with genetic counselors in the development of protocols and workflows. In her spare time, Katie enjoys dancing, writing fiction and cooking.

Liana Abramson

Undergrad: College of William and Mary, Neuroscience, Minor: Linguistics

While at William and Mary, Liana served on the Honor Council and volunteered as an academic peer adviser for incoming students. During her senior year, she volunteered as a shelter advocate at Avalon, a women’s shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence. In addition, she worked in a computational linguistics lab, investigating human language processing through predictive models and self-paced reading tasks. She has also shadowed and interviewed cancer, prenatal and adult genetic counselors in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Virginia.

Austin Bland

Undergrad: University of Washington, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

During his undergraduate career, Austin volunteered with the genetic counseling team at the UW Medical Center and interned with genetic counselors the Stanford Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease. After graduating, he returned to Stanford as a clinical research coordinator to further pursue his interest in preventing inherited disease. During this time, he conducted original research on medically significant discordance between Stanford clinicians and genetic testing laboratories, which he gave as a platform presentation at the 2015 NSGC conference in Seattle. Austin volunteers weekly with his local crisis hotline.

Katherine Donohue

Undergrad: Rutgers University, Genetics, Minors: French and Political Science

Kate also earned a Certificate in Genetic Counseling, having shadowed genetic counselors in cancer, pediatrics and prenatal clinics at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Kate worked for two years in a Neuroscience laboratory on campus, completing an honors thesis studying the effect of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor on dendrite arborization. She was a member of the Rutgers Society of Bioethics and the Catholic Student Association. In 2016, Kate interned with the New York Genome Center with the legal department. Kate also studied in Paris in the summer of 2015 and is a certified crisis and suicide hotline counselor.

Rachel Full

Undergrad: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Minor: Spanish

Rachel was a member of the James Scholar Honors program and spent a semester in Granada, Spain, studying the culture and language. During her undergraduate career, she investigated her own research proposal on the topic of childhood obesity through the STRONG Kids2 Project. She has been volunteering with the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation for eight years. Rachel also shadowed a pediatric genetic counselor for a year at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Champaign, Illinois.

Mary Hickman

Undergrad: Hood College, Psychology, Minors: Biology and Gerontology

During undergrad, Mary volunteered as a call specialist at the Frederick County Crisis Hotline, assisted with support groups organized by the Alzheimer’s Association and worked as a research assistant in the Hood College Geriatric Assessment Research Lab. She also served as president of her college’s chapter of the Psi Chi International Psychology Honor Society and coordinated events and fundraisers for multiple service organizations on campus. After graduation, she worked as a genetic counseling assistant in the whole exome sequencing department at GeneDx, where she was mentored by genetic counselors who have practiced in both clinical and industry settings.

Franceska Hinkamp

Undergrad: University of San Francisco, Sociology, Minor: Media Studies

Franceska joined The Jesuit Volunteer Corps and was placed in Yakima, Washington, where she designed and implemented The Youth Employment Connections Program for youth in foster care. She continued in the child welfare field in a variety capacities including a case manager for youth housing assistance and an engagement specialist at the leading advocacy organization for child welfare reform in Washington. From 2015-2017, Franceska completed post-baccalaureate studies at Oregon State University while working as an investigator in a lab analyzing miRNA regulation of gene transcription in plant models. Franceska shadowed genetic counselors in Yakima and Portland in cancer, pediatric, prenatal and cardiovascular settings.

Kelsey Hogan

Undergrad: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Psychology

While at Wisconsin, Kelsey spent a summer studying abroad in London and still enjoys traveling. After graduation, Kelsey moved back to her hometown of Chicago and began volunteering for a domestic violence crisis line and shelter in Evanston. She volunteered at Advocate Lutheran General in their Ambulatory Surgery Center from 2014-2016. She then became the first volunteer in Advocate's Genetics Department in 2015 and was hired as their first Genetic Counseling Assistant in 2016. In that role, Kelsey worked extensively alongside genetic counselors to provide administrative support and help coordinate testing with patients. She shadowed many cases in specialties such as pediatrics, cancer and prenatal genetics.

Sinead Horgan

Undergrad: University of California, San Diego, Biology

During undergrad, Sinead became a research assistant for the UCSD REACH project, a research study aimed at understanding the genetic basis of autism. In addition, she shadowed the genetic counselors at the Moores Cancer Center and volunteered for the Therapeutic Horse Riding Center for Children with Disabilities. To balance her interest in biology and genetics, Sinead spent her extra time competing for the UCSD triathlon team and continued on the national level for three years a row. Since graduation, she has been working at Ambry Genetics as a clinical data analyst.

Ismam Islam

Undergrad: University of Missouri-Columbia, Biological Sciences, Psychology, Health Sciences

Ismam founded an organization connecting students to volunteer at the local children’s hospital where student volunteers would partake in various activities with the pediatric patients and provide support to their families. He also was involved with other service programs such as the Mid-Missouri Crisis Hotline, Adaptive Ice Skating and Relay for Life. Ismam interned for the Cancer Genetic Counseling Department with Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, where he worked on a Lynch syndrome project, connecting patients who meet national guidelines for genetic testing to receive genetic counseling and cancer screening.

Alexander Lao

Undergrad: St. Olaf College, Biology, concentration in Asian Studies

At St. Olaf, Alex was heavily involved with the rowing team and eventually served as president of the club. Alex spent a summer interning in Japan, practicing sustainable organic farming and learning about leadership skills with a global community. Alex returned to Japan in 2016 to conduct research comparing the efficiency of rice and wheat in different local fertilizers. At St. Olaf, he also spent time volunteering with local elementary students, working to increase interest in STEM fields. Over the past year, Alex worked at a group home for adults with autism and volunteered with a youth crisis hotline at The Bridge for Youth.

Meghan Miller

Undergrad: Villanova University, Biology, Minor: Communication

As an undergrad, Meghan volunteered for hospice, tutored underprivileged children and was the vice president and philanthropy chair of the Pre-Health Club. During summers, Meghan spent time conducting research on risk factors that contribute to a negative pregnancy despite genetically normal embryos. She also worked as a project manager for a continuing medical education company. Her ongoing passion has been the non-profit she founded in 2011, the Red Lily Foundation. Through her work with the foundation, she has raised funds to find a cure and promote physician education for dysautonomia and POTS.

Jason Murphy

Undergrad: Illinois Wesleyan University, Biology

During his undergraduate career, Jason investigated avian eggshell morphology and interned at the Community Cancer Center in Normal, Illinois. After graduation, he worked as a research assistant in a neuro-oncology lab at the University of Chicago, before becoming an academic investigator at The Joint Commission, where he helped to write healthcare standards for organizations across the country. Jason has also had the opportunity to volunteer as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line and shadow a genetic counselor working in the cancer specialty.

Katie Rembisz

Undergrad: Northwestern University, Biological Sciences, Minor: English Literature

At Northwestern, Katie served as a peer adviser for new students, volunteered with Special Olympics and moderated Sustained Dialogues through the Campus Inclusion & Community office. She also had the opportunity to conduct research in a molecular genetics lab, where she screened yeast colonies for transcriptional memory mutations. In 2016, she worked with the Evanston non-profit Youth & Opportunity United as a fellow for the Summer Learning Program. Katie learned more about genetic counseling through shadowing genetic counselors in New Jersey and throughout the Chicago area.

Marc Rosenbaum

Undergrad: Loyola University Chicago, Molecular Biology, Spanish, Minor: Psychology

As an undergraduate, Marc was involved all four years in Best Buddies, eventually serving as co-president for Loyola’s chapter. During his junior year, he attended a medical brigade mission to Panama, organized and led by a group of pre-health undergraduate students. Marc also served as a resident assistant, played the clarinet in Loyola’s pep band and spent his summers volunteering at a pediatric endocrinology clinic and conducting research on myocyte mutations and heart disease at Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood. After attending medical school for a semester, Marc discovered genetic counseling and has been fortunate enough to shadow some Northwestern-trained genetic counselors at NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital.

Ryan Smith

Undergrad: Howard Payne University, Biology, Minor: Health Science

At HPU, Ryan worked for the biology department as a teaching assistant and tutored students in various science courses. Ryan served as a senator within student government and as president of his chapter’s biological honor society. During his time off, he volunteered at West Texas Rehabilitation Center shadowing physical, occupational and speech therapists. In the summer of 2016, he participated in a Wheels for the World trip to Haiti involving fitting wheelchairs for individuals who had a need for them. Born with a form of dwarfism, Ryan is a member of Little People of America, an organization that provides support and advocacy for people with dwarfism and their families.

Iva Stoyanova

Undergrad: Benedictine University, Health Science

Following her freshman year, Iva was awarded a research fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and spent the summer studying the host-plant choices of the black swallowtail butterfly with Dr. Cheryl Heinz. She later earned a graduate degree in sociology from DePaul University. Her capstone project was a qualitative study grounded in feminist theory. It explored how divergence from traditional gender roles is employed as a narrative device in a reality crime series portraying women who have committed violent crime. After graduate school, Iva developed and implemented employment programs for social services agencies. In that capacity, she was involved in providing advocacy, education and empowerment services to individuals with disabilities and military veterans.

Stephanie Tsang

Undergrad: University of Texas at Austin, Human Development and Family Sciences; University of Texas at Dallas, Biology

As an undergraduate, Stephanie studied abroad in China to learn more about the Chinese healthcare system and to compare Traditional Chinese Medicine to Western medicine. She also served as a teaching assistant for Eukaryotic Molecular and Cell Biology. She works as a research technician in Dr. Theodora Ross’s lab at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where they examine how patients with mutations in the gene BRCA1 respond to chemotherapy by studying the mechanisms that control the recruitment of immune cells. Stephanie is also a certified sexual assault advocate.

Angela Wang

Undergrad: Johns Hopkins University, Public Health Studies, Biology

At Hopkins, Angela served as a peer health educator and worked as a tutor at The Learning Den. She was also a research assistant at the Hopkins Early Neurodevelopment Lab, which studies the effects of maternal hormones during pregnancy on infant and child behavior. Angela particularly enjoyed volunteering as an insurance counselor at a clinic for uninsured patients and as a resource advocate at a community social service organization. She spent a summer interning at the Institute of Genetic Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she had the opportunity to shadow genetic counselors in the pediatrics and neurogenetics settings.  

Kristen Young

Undergrad: University of South Carolina Honors College, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

During her time as an undergraduate, Kristen studied abroad in Italy and Thailand and worked as a peer adviser in the USC Study Abroad Office. Kristen interned at a genetics laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and participated in Yale University’s Summer Institute in Bioethics. She has volunteered with the Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and served as a camp counselor for children with serious illnesses at the Double H Ranch. Kristen also had the opportunity to shadow genetic counselors and assist with clinical research at the Turner Syndrome Clinic at Mass General Hospital.

2020

Hannah Brodner

Undergrad: Ripon College, Biology, Minors: Chemistry and Psychology

During her time as an undergraduate, Hannah was certified as a Line therapist and provided different therapeutic services to children diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum and their families. She also worked for the biology department as a laboratory assistant for multiple biology courses. In addition, she spent the summer before her senior year doing research at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill focusing on transcription factors in Drosophila in relation to development. Finally, she also had the opportunity to shadow several Genetic Counselors in both the adult and cancer settings.

Pankti Doshi

Undergrad: Santa Clara University, Bioengineering and Mathematics, Minors: Biology and Biotechnology

Pankti's passion for Genetic Counseling was ignited when she shadowed genetic counselors specialized in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at Stanford University. She has served as an Elderly Care Assistant at Regency supporting patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and assisted South Asian victims of domestic abuse with MAITRI. Upon graduation, she worked as a Human Factors Engineer at Genentech, rotated among four company divisions through Abbott Laboratories’ Operations Professional Development Program, and then transitioned to a Program Management role with Abbott Diabetes Care. In her free time, Pankti loves to sing, play basketball, dance salsa and hip-hop, and create henna art designs.

Jessica Edgar

Undergrad: University of Missouri–Columbia, Psychology and Biological Sciences

At Mizzou, Jessica was heavily involved in service organizations such as Rockin’ Against Multiple Sclerosis and Relay For Life, where she served on the executive board for two years. She was a volunteer at Adapted Gymnastics where she taught gymnastics to children with various disabilities. During the last year, she served as a crisis volunteer for the Mid – Missouri Crisis Line and shadowed a cancer genetic counselor. She also had the opportunity to complete her senior research thesis examining how personality differences affect genetic testing decisions and presented the findings at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in April 2018.

Martha Francoeur

Undergrad: University of Iowa, Interdepartmental Studies, concentration in Biology and Human Physiology

As an undergraduate, Martha was a student researcher in a genetics laboratory focusing on meiotic prophase I in C. elegans. She volunteered at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in their genetics clinic from 2016-2018 where she provided administrative support to their genetic counselors and had the opportunity to shadow many cases in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Martha worked as a paramedic for the Chicago Fire Department until beginning her graduate studies and remains an active member of the Chicago Fire Department Pipes & Drums Band as a side drummer.

Natalia Gutierrez

Undergrad: University of California, Los Angeles, Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics

As an undergraduate, Natalia served as a STEM transfer peer mentor for community college students, as well as a piano instructor for underrepresented high school and middle school students. At this time, she began shadowing a Spanish-speaking cancer genetic counselor, whom she has continued volunteering with for over two years. After graduating, Natalia volunteered as a New Hope crisis counselor, assisted children with visual impairments at the Blind Children’s Learning Center, and coordinated fun activities for adults with disabilities through the Jewish Federation and Family Services. She also worked full-time as a Clinical Genomics Assistant on the whole exome sequencing team at Ambry Genetics.

Kyra Hartley

Undergrad: Michigan State University, Genomics and Molecular Genetics, Minor: Anthropology

While at Michigan State University, Kyra was a part of the Honors College and conducted undergraduate research in the neurobiology department. She also volunteered at Michigan State's sexual assault program by answering calls on the crisis hotline. Kyra began interning for a Genetic Counselor in the Cancer Center at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan in 2017. During her time as an intern, she shadowed a genetic counselor and learned how to prep patients before appointments.

Kyle Heraty

Undergrad: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, Minors: Spanish Studies and Public Health

During his undergraduate career, Kyle worked as a lab assistant at both the Nakato and Pelican Labs where he investigated heparan sulfate proteoglycan cell signaling and analyzed the microbiomes of local tick populations. After graduation, he volunteered as an assistant research coordinator at RUSH University Medical Center’s Department of Pediatric Neurology, where he worked on the SPARK Project for autism research, the Fragile X Natural History Study, and the Neurodevelopmental Disorder Research Registry. Additionally, Kyle interned as a genetic counseling assistant at Advocate Lutheran General.

Eleanor Hilton

Undergrad: Colgate University, Biology, Minor: Women's Studies

While at Colgate, Elly served as a Peer Tutor in Biology and as a Data Analyst for Career Services. In 2014, she conducted research in Developmental Neurobiology with a focus on epigenetics. The following year she studied abroad in Australia to learn about factors of public health inequality. After graduating, Elly worked as a Student Support Counselor for Vista Life Innovations, an organization that provides life and social skills training for adults with disabilities. In addition, she interned as a Genetic Counseling Assistant at Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute and volunteered as a Help Line Advocate for the Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County, Rhode Island.

Sarah Jurgensmeyer

Undergrad: Vanderbilt University, Cognitive Studies and Medicine, Health & Society, Minor: Neuroscience

During her undergraduate career, Sarah worked in the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Prader-Willi Syndrome Initiatives Lab where she completed her honors thesis about coping mechanisms in parents of children with PWS. After graduation, Sarah worked with The Arc’s Nashville chapter, implementing an employment program for adults with disabilities, and in a charter school’s special education department. She then worked at a secondary school in Durban, South Africa as a Fulbright Scholar. Upon returning home, Sarah continued to work at Vanderbilt’s PWS lab and the Vanderbilt site of the Undiagnosed Diseases Network. Sarah is an active participant in the Angelman Syndrome community.

Jennifer Kim

Undergrad: Cornell University, Biology, Minor: East Asian Studies

As an undergrad, Jenny was a teaching assistant for an introductory genetics course, a tutor, and a member of Biology Service Leaders (a program that allows students to work closely with community organizations to create service events and educational workshops). She also conducted research in a molecular medicine lab where she aimed to determine the 3D structure of a membrane protein associated with chronic pain. During summers, Jenny worked as a research assistant studying acorn woodpecker behavior and volunteered as a caseworker with a clinic that offers the underserved community health and social services.

Meghan McKenna

Undergrad: University of San Diego Honors Program, Biology, Minors: Chemistry and Political Science

In addition to studying at USD, Meghan spent a semester at the University College Cork, Ireland. As an undergraduate, Meghan volunteered on campus for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and at Casa de las Memorias in Tijuana, Mexico. She also served as a biology teaching assistant, tutor, and scholastic assistant. Meghan worked for two years in an immunology laboratory studying the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor in zebrafish. She spent a summer shadowing cancer genetic counselors at the University of California, San Francisco. Upon graduation, Meghan returned to UCSF as a Research Associate for the Innovative Genomics Institute where she studied the potential for curing genetic disease using CRISPR/Cas9 technology.

Daniel Meadows

Undergrad: University of Maryland, College Park, Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, Minor: Rhetoric

During his undergraduate career, Dan joined Beta Psi Omega, a professional biology fraternity, eventually serving as officer and later national board member. He also volunteered with Beyond These Walls, an after-school program for ESL students in low-income areas. After graduation, he worked as the tutor manager of Carroll Community College’s Academic Center for two years, while also volunteering as a conflict mediator in Community Mediation Maryland. In 2016, Dan joined GeneDx, where he served as a Genetic Counseling Assistant to their prenatal, rare disorders, and array teams, and completed research on prenatal targeted array efficacy.

Chandler Myers

Undergrad: University of Virginia, Biology, Minor: Italian

During her time as a student, Chandler studied abroad in Siena, Italy and earned a business certificate from the McIntire School of Commerce. At UVA, she spent her time volunteering with the HELP Line crisis counseling center, tutoring student athletes through the Cavalier Academic Support Team, and shadowing pediatric and prenatal genetic counselors at the UVA Medical Center. In her hometown of Dallas, Texas, she shadowed and worked as an office administrator for Dr. Mary Caire at The Caire Institute, a private practice specializing in wellness and precision medicine.

Leighanne Ormston

Undergrad: University of Connecticut, Biology and Psychology, Minors: Neuroscience and Molecular Biology
Graduate: Boston University School of Medicine, MS in Medical Sciences

While in Boston, Leigha completed her research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on the genetics of schizophrenia. She also volunteered with the Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program, shadowing and assisting the genetic counselors and physicians. During her time in Boston, Leigha also volunteered with several outreach organizations, including Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, the BUSM Outreach Van Project, and Rosie’s Place.

Elizabeth Pollard

Undergrad: University of Richmond, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Minor: Latin American and Iberian Studies
Graduate: University of Chicago, MS in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology

For the past three years, Beth has been employed as a Research Technologist at the Evanston-based pharmaceutical startup Aptinyx Inc, where her work in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology has contributed to the development of new drugs to treat neurological conditions such as fibromyalgia, PTSD, and Parkinson’s Disease. Beth is also a regular volunteer at Misericordia, a residential home for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and has experience shadowing a cancer genetic counselor.

Anthony Porto

Undergrad: Rutgers University, Genetics and Psychology

While at Rutgers, Anthony investigated the interaction between tumor protein 53 (P53) and Sirtuin 7 (SIRT7) and how knockouts of these genes affect tumorigenesis. He was also a member of the Association of Undergraduate Geneticists (AUG), helping to keep students interested in genetics updated on research opportunities, seminars, and other departmental activities that they may be interested in. After graduation Anthony worked as a research assistant for a small federally qualified health center, looking to improve patient outcome by using new medical technologies. Anthony is also a certified sexual assault crisis counselor, helping survivors both over the hotline and at the hospital.

Allegra Quadri

Undergrad: Queen’s University, Life Sciences, specializing in Biomedical Sciences

Allegra completed an honors thesis project in which she investigated the association between preeclampsia and subsequent cardiovascular disease in affected mothers, using a rat model. While at Queen’s, Allegra volunteered as an advocate for patients at Hotel Dieu Hospital and as a peer counselor at the Peer Support Centre where she provided confidential, one-on-one support to students. She also worked for the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences as a teaching assistant in first and second year Anatomy courses. After graduation, Allegra worked as a math instructor and volunteered as a Vision Mate for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

Liya Rabkina

Undergrad: Scripps College, Biochemistry

While at Scripps, Liya worked in a variety of molecular biology research laboratories within the W. M. Keck Science Department and The Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Her senior thesis project investigated regulation of stem cell division by the Adiponectin Receptor. Outside of academics, she was the president of Scripps Challah for Hunger (a small non-profit organization), an advocate for survivors of sexual assault on campus, a California certified advocate for survivors of domestic violence and a manager at the student store. Following graduation, Liya relocated to Chicago where she worked as a genetic counseling assistant at Reproductive Genetic Innovations and volunteered at a residential home for adults with disabilities. Liya has shadowed numerous genetic counselors in the Chicagoland and Bay areas.

Hillary Rieger

Undergrad: Barnard College, Psychology, capstone in Neuroethics

After graduating, Hillary worked as a research coordinator at the Seaver Center for Autism at Mount Sinai in New York. She worked on clinical trials for Fragile-X syndrome and Phelan McDermid syndrome, as well as a neurodevelopmental, behavioral, and genetic assessment core protocol. From 2016-2018, Hillary completed a post-baccalaureate in Health Studies at New York University. Hillary has been involved in the Youth Leadership Council for the Basser Center, summarizing and disseminating current research regarding BRCA1/2 related cancers and treatments. She also spent three years volunteering for the RAINN hotline, is trained on numerous physiological assessments, and is a certified phlebotomist.

Samantha Sandlow

Undergrad: Indiana University, Psychology and Spanish Linguistics

While at Indiana, Sam enjoyed being a campus tour guide and volunteering at a domestic abuse shelter. She was a member of the Hutton Honors College as well as a Founders Scholar. Embracing the culture and Spanish language, Sam studied in Madrid, Spain for a semester. Upon graduating, she returned home to Milwaukee and began shadowing a genetic counselor while seeking out new volunteer opportunities. She participated in Upstream Arts, a program dedicated to bringing art and expression to children with special needs. While participating with this group, Sam founded a dance class to encourage movement and energy, as well as exposure to music and rhythm.

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