The University of Maryland Genetic Counseling students want to share with you a short video of what it means to become a Genetic Counselor.
Class of 2024
Originally from Modesto, California, Jessica graduated summa cum laude from Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University in 2021 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences (Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology) and minor in Psychology. Jessica first learned of genetic counseling in high school and its focus on genetics, teaching, and supporting others resonated with her. During her undergraduate studies, Jessica worked as a teaching assistant for an honors humanities course, tutored undergraduate students in biology and chemistry courses, volunteered as a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line, and shadowed and spoke with several genetic counselors. Jessica also worked with a research lab that studies genetic and environmental influences on health and behaviors in a large sample of twins in middle childhood. In addition to completing home visits with the lab, she also completed an honors thesis examining social support as a protective factor for children at genetic risk of developing ADHD symptoms. After graduating, Jessica worked as a clinical research coordinator for a company that conducts clinical research trials for dermatological products. She also volunteered with children with Down syndrome with Gigi’s Playhouse and with individuals at risk of developing hereditary cancer with FORCE during this time. In her free time, Jessica enjoys puzzles, baking cookies, and watching baseball. Jessica is thrilled to join the UMB MGC class of 2024 and explore Baltimore and the East Coast!
Kathryn is originally from the Bay Area in California and graduated from the University of California - San Diego with a B.S. in Human Biology and a minor in Psychology. After undergrad, she worked at a biotech lab running genotyping testing while also working part-time teaching recreational gymnastics to kids of all ages. While working at the biotech lab, Kathryn discovered the field of genetic counseling and found it aligned perfectly with her background in science and desire to work in patient healthcare. For the past two years, she has been working at a Covid testing laboratory, as well as solidifying her desire to become a genetic counselor by volunteering as a crisis hotline counselor and shadowing genetic counselors. In her free time, Kathryn enjoys painting, spending time with friends, and trying new restaurants. She is very excited to explore the city of Baltimore and be a part of the MGC program at the University of Maryland!
Born and raised in Potomac, Maryland, Jessica graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in 2020 with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health. During her undergraduate years, she volunteered with the Mountain Lion Backpack coordinating community outreach services for local elementary school students. She also served as a founding member of the Sigma Sigma Sigma, Beta Upsilon Chapter sorority, taking on various leadership and supervision roles within the organization and chairing committees aimed at growing the organization and maintaining core campus values. Additionally, Jessica was awarded a certificate for Improving Cultural Competency for Behavioral Health Professionals. Following the completion of her undergraduate studies, Jessica completed nearly 1,000 hours serving as a Call Center Specialist and Online Emotional Support Chat Specialist for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and for her local county’s lifeline and homeless hotline. After learning more about a potential career path in genetic counseling, Jessica then gained valuable exposure to the field through her work as a genetic counseling assistant at Inova Fairfax Hospital. During her time at Inova, she supported a team of six genetic counselors and two geneticists of varying specialties. She observed and participated in the hospital inpatient rounds, cardiovascular, adult neurology, autism, cancer, prenatal, preconception, craniofacial, and pediatric clinics at Inova and the Pediatric Specialists of Virginia. Her responsibilities included ordering genetic tests from different labs and following up on testing, preparing patient charts for genetic counseling sessions, conducting literature research and compiling resources for patients with rare conditions, and creating presentations for their weekly meetings. These experiences furthered her passion and exposed her to the inner workings of the field. Outside of work and school, Jessica enjoys bodybuilding, watching the Real Housewives franchise, soaking up the sun, and spending time with friends and family. Jessica is thrilled to be able to continue her education in Baltimore with the MGC program at the University of Maryland!
Raised in Virginia, Ivana completed her undergraduate degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, with minors in psychology and biology, at Randolph Macon College and her graduate degree in Biomedical Sciences with an emphasis in Biopsychology at Liberty University. While continuing her education, Ivana worked in several medical offices with genetic counselors, volunteered at Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault (RCASA), and was a COVID-19 case investigator for Fairfax County, VA. Due to an interest in making connections between personal experiences with genetic testing and inherited disorders, Ivana wants to help others navigate these elements successfully. Ivana enjoys working out, reading novels, and being around family and friends.
Originally from Baltimore, Hailey attended the University of Maryland, College Park and graduated in Spring of 2022 with a B.S. in Public Health Science. While attending, she enjoyed her time working in mental health services, with an internship at a mental health rehabilitation service as well as volunteering as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line. After meeting one of the UMB Genetic Counselors at a high school women-in-STEM conference, Hailey fell in love with genetic counseling, and specifically what UMB had to offer. She worked tirelessly for the next 5 years, participating in the Maryland-DC Society for Genetic Counselors, her university’s pre-genetic counseling society, and shadowing UMB staff with the limited availability during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her free time, Hailey enjoys going to the Hippodrome in downtown Baltimore to see the national touring companies that perform musicals around once a month. She also loves to paint and draw, and wishes she could have taken some extra classes in undergrad in studio art. She is ecstatic to be back in her hometown for the next few years and eager to begin her journey to become a genetic counselor!
Originally from Westchester, New York, Bailey attended the University of Miami where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with minors in Psychology, Chemistry, and Religious Studies. As an undergraduate student, Bailey was a research assistant in an epigenetics lab studying myeloid malignancies and volunteered as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line. Upon graduating, Bailey began working as a Genetic Counseling Assistant for the mitochondrial and neurogenetics teams at GeneDx. Bailey also volunteered for Victims Assistance Services, an organization that serves crime victims of Westchester County, as a crisis counselor for their 24/7 hotline. In her spare time, Bailey enjoys curling up with a good book, gardening, spending time with friends and family, and satisfying her sweet tooth. Bailey first learned of genetic counseling in high school and with every exposure to the field, she became more committed to pursuing it as a career. She is thrilled to begin her formal education at the University of Maryland and looks forward to exploring all that Baltimore has to offer.
Stephanie Soto Mangandi
Stephanie, originally from El Salvador and raised in Maryland, attended Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania, where she obtained a B.S in Biotechnology. Stephanie’s personal experience bridging communication gaps within her community intensified her desire to pursue genetic counseling. She aims to be actively involved in progressive diversity efforts since her passion lies in understanding how environmental injustices can contribute to disparities in health status across populations and increasing access to genetic counseling resources for underrepresented communities. Stephanie currently works as an Aquaponics Technician, and her favorite creative outlets include tending to her plant collection and earring making.
Anna was raised in rural Michigan and earned a B.S. in Human Biology from Michigan State University with minors in Public Health and Bioethics, Humanities and Society. She spent many of her undergraduate years doing physiology research, exploring Neurotensin Neurons in the Lateral Hypothalamic Area of the brain and holding leadership roles in the Professional Chemistry Fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma. Anna also began to explore healthcare models in Europe through studying abroad in London and analyzing various national healthcare systems and their approach to bioethics. Since earning her degree, she learned about different educational systems by working in a Montessori school and began volunteering as a Crisis Text Line Counselor to provide mental support for those who are struggling with a crisis. Anna was excited to learn about Genetic Counseling after being guided toward the career, as it encompasses her passion for patient care and an empathetic approach to medicine. While preparing for graduate school she continued her research efforts, this time in the field of optogenetics at Wayne State University, to evaluate new treatment models for various forms of ophthalmic disease. In her free time, Anna enjoys traditional Irish Step Dancing, reading, listening to podcasts, and exploring her new home in Baltimore. She is beyond excited to join the University of Maryland Baltimore Genetic Counseling Program family and can’t wait to see where it takes her in the future!
Rylee was born and raised in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, but traveled south to pursue a B.S. in Genetics at North Carolina State University. During all four years at NC State, Rylee was a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader through her university’s Academic Success Center. She also partnered with the veterinary college to research the genetic impact on the dogs of Chernobyl after 30 years of radiation exposure. During her research experience, she decided to shadow a genetic counselor at UNC hospital and knew immediately she wanted to pursue the career. With her passions realized, Rylee began volunteering at Hopeline as a Crisis Counselor and became a peer mentor for other SI leaders. Following graduation, Rylee continued her southern travels by moving to Florida to work as a genetic counseling assistant at Moffitt Cancer Center. In her free time, Rylee enjoys playing board games, reading, sailing, and cooking. She is thrilled to return to the state she has always called home and start her genetic counseling journey at the University of Maryland.
Class of 2025
In development. Check back soon!
Class of 2023
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Darwin graduated from the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) in 2020 and earned a B.S. in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Microbiology. As an undergraduate, Darwin worked as a Research Leader with the Texas Workforce Commission, as a Natural Science Tutor, and as a Supplemental Instruction Leader with the Supplemental Instruction Program at UHD. Darwin learned about genetic counseling amid his undergraduate career and was immediately taken. Accordingly, he began to shadow genetic counselors throughout Houston’s medical center and developed a strong interest for the field. Towards the end of his undergraduate career, Darwin volunteered as a Warmline Operator at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Houston, an organization dedicated to helping those in need of mental health resources. Following graduation, Darwin traveled to Egypt and worked as a Program Coordinator for a private school in Sohag and as an Admission Specialist for an international school in Cairo. Consequently, Darwin’s prior experiences, enthusiasm for learning about the field of genetics, and shadowing genetic counselors have confirmed his desire of becoming a genetic counselor. Darwin’s favorite pastimes include playing soccer, spending time with family, reading, and watching movies. Darwin is eager to start his new academic endeavor with the University of Maryland Baltimore Genetic Counseling Program and being part of the Class of 2023!
Originally from Hanover, Pennsylvania, Adrienne attended Washington College located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She graduated in 2020 with her B.S. in Biology along with minors in Psychology and Chemistry. During her undergraduate career, she worked as a Peer Mentor and gained cancer research experience through a summer internship at the University of California, San Francisco. Her interests in cancer and fertility were integrated into her Senior Capstone Experience, in which she investigated the chemotherapeutic effects on fertility in men and women. Adrienne has been passionate about pursuing genetic counseling since first discovering the career in high school. She has since then gained experience in the field while working as a genetic counseling assistant at GeneDx. Adrienne loves her golden retriever, traveling, spending time with friends and family, and trying new restaurants in Baltimore. She is thrilled to be continuing on the path to becoming a genetic counselor at the University of Maryland!
Cecelia Denne was born and raised in Columbia, Maryland. She graduated December 2020 from the University of Maryland (Go Terps!) with a degree in Biological Sciences. During her first year, she participated in the BioFIRE program, which allowed her to delve into research of neurodegenerative diseases. She was specifically involved in determining treatment methods of Parkinson’s disease using non-invasive electromagnetic stimulation. In addition, Cecelia was also actively involved in UMD’s community, acting as a Resident Assistant, Orientation Advisor, Peer Mentor, and many other roles. From these opportunities, Cecelia discovered her innate love for supporting others as well as that for genetics. When determining what career she wanted to pursue, it felt almost fated that she discovered the field of genetic counseling. With now a goal to fuel her passion, Cecelia continued her journey to help others by becoming a Crisis Counselor for Crisis Text Line and working jobs to ease the transition for students returning to college during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her free time, she enjoys scary movies, mystery novels, and oil painting. Since graduating, she has been working full-time as a Genetic Counseling Assistant at GeneDx. Cecelia is immensely excited to be joining the MGC Program at the University of Maryland in her favorite city of Baltimore.
Originally from Southern New Jersey, Brianna completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Widener University, graduating magna cum laude in 2020. As an undergraduate, Brianna worked as a tutor at a local elementary school, assisting diverse and at-risk students with reading and mathematics. She also participated in an “Inside Out” Program with the State Corrections Institution in Chester, PA. There, Brianna facilitated PTSD therapy groups with inmates and assisted them with developing coping mechanisms for their post incarceration re-entry. Complementing her studies and her passion for genetic counseling, Brianna collaborated on two research projects that made substantive contributions to the fields of psychology and genetics. At Widener University, she assisted with faculty-led research in psychology that assessed behavioral responses to food when hungry, using startle as the measurement response. At Cooper Medical School in Camden, NJ, she examined the link of an inflammatory gene to temporal lobe epilepsy. Post-graduation, Brianna worked as a Medical Scribe at Inspira Health and as a Genetic Counseling Assistant at GeneDx, which gave her formative opportunities to work where science and patient/human needs intersect. These experiences also allowed her to immerse herself in the many dimensions and realities of genetic counseling, affirming her desire to pursue a career in genetic counseling. In her free time, Brianna enjoys being in the company of friends, watching documentaries, and cooking new recipes. She is looking forward to joining the MGC Program at the University of Maryland and is excited to be part of the class of 2024!
Cati Gurri grew up mostly in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia before attending the College of William and Mary. While attending, she participated in viral ecology research investigating particle associated bacteriophage in storm water retention ponds and began her interest in accessibility and advocacy as a member of the student accessibility services student advisory board. After graduating in 2018, Cati moved to Richmond, Virginia, to begin working for Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) as an Assistant Scientist. While at this position, she participated in several vaccine development projects, and learned a great deal about private pharmaceutical industry. Cati has had an obsessive interest in genetics from a young age, and after discovering genetic counseling in her final semester at William and Mary, she felt certain she found the career field she was meant for. Because of this she left PPD to pursue the graduate program at UMB. During that process, she had the incredible opportunity to help her community throughout the global pandemic through the Richmond Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Hotline, by coordinating food and supplies to those in desperate need in the Richmond area. Additionally, she was a Crisis Counselor at the Crisis Text line, and a Visiting Volunteer for Family Lifeline. Cati also has a passion for music, being a trained singer and playing several instruments. She is extremely excited to become a member of the UMB MGC family and see what Baltimore has to offer!
Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Emily graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biobehavioral Health and a minor in Psychology in the spring of 2017. Over those four years, she was a research assistant as well as a volunteer at the local hospital and a crisis hotline counselor. With a passion for patient-centered care and an interest in genetics, Emily was introduced to the field of genetic counseling through her school advisor. Following undergraduate studies, Emily took some time to strengthen her skills and knowledge — she first worked as a Mental Health Care Coordinator for a Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program, then transitioned to a Genetic Counselor Assistant position at Johns Hopkins Center for Inherited Heart Diseases. After already living in Baltimore for four years, Emily was thrilled to learn she would not have to leave any time soon! In her spare time, Emily enjoys working out, cooking, spending time with her dog, and trying new things.
Originally from outside of Philadelphia, Ali graduated with honors from The Pennsylvania State University with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health and a minor in Rehabilitation and Human Services. Throughout her time at Penn State, Ali volunteered for a Crisis Hotline, was an instructor for the Youthful Offenders Program, mentored students with mental disabilities, and was an active volunteer and participant in Penn State’s THON. After a high school teacher recommended genetic counseling, Ali researched the career and connected with how the field combined education, medicine, and counseling. After shadowing a pediatric genetic counselor, Ali’s passion for genetic counseling was solidified. In her free time, Ali enjoys playing tennis, drawing and painting, and spending time with family and friends. She is beyond excited to be a part of the University of Maryland Genetic Counseling Class of 2023!
Sara was born in Massachusetts and grew up mainly in Wisconsin, where she attended college at Mount Mary University and received dual undergraduate degrees in psychology and biology. During her undergraduate years, she did cognitive psychology research, seeking to understand the impact of STEM anxiety on cognitive performance in women and underrepresented groups. She also worked in a neuropharmacology lab at the Medical College of WI, studying the endocannabinoid system and its contribution to pain regulation. Sara was part of a scholarship program that emphasized service learning and had many volunteer roles, including in a special education classroom, local free clinic, and the children’s hospital. She was the president of Mount Mary’s Active Minds chapter, where they engaged in advocacy to reduce issues of mental health stigma on campus and promote student access to resources. Sara gained additional insights into the mental health care system by working as a residential counselor and intake coordinator and a behavioral health hospital. Working at a day camp for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities also gave her insights into the unique needs of those populations. After graduating from Mount Mary, Sara worked at the National Institutes of Health conducting positron emission tomography (PET) neuroimaging research to identify biomarkers and therapeutics for neuropsychiatric diseases. At NIH, her interest in science and research deepened, but she also recognized that she missed the more hands-on patient care type experiences that she’d had. After learning about the genetic counseling career path, Sara identified it as one that could help her maximize all of her diverse skills and passions including mental health, research, science communication, and public health. In her free time, Sara enjoys listening to science and philosophy podcasts and spending time hiking, practicing her ASL skills, and writing poetry.