Students pursuing a career in genetic counseling build unique experiences as they
prepare for graduate education. Each of our students has something special to offer
from their undergraduate, post graduate and extracurricular experiences as they merge
to become a team of learners.
Class of 2023
Kenya De Leon
Kenya De Leon is from Greenwood, South Carolina. She attended Clemson University and
graduated in May 2021 with a B.S. in Genetics and a minor in Spanish. During her time
at Clemson, Kenya participated in bioinformatics undergraduate research in the Wang
Laboratory. She worked on essential genes in cancer using WGCNA, an R package for
weighted correlation network analysis. She was also a part of the Rotaract Club, where
she volunteered with several organizations including Rise Against Hunger, Camp Spearhead,
Helping Hands, and Project Linus. Kenya is happy to answer any program or application
related questions that anyone may have. She is excited to be a part of the USC Genetic
Counseling Class of 2023!
Scott Dent is originally from Lake Forest, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He graduated
from the University of Michigan in 2019 with a B.S. in Neuroscience. During his time
in Michigan, he worked under Dr. Sue Hammoud to study the effect that epigenetic modifications
have on fertility. He also volunteered for the SafeHouse Center of Washtenaw County,
a shelter that supports victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. After graduating,
he worked for two years as a research coordinator for the ALS Center of Excellence
at the University of Michigan Hospital. In this role, he helped with several NIH funded
research projects focused on ALS, including an epidemiological risk factor study,
and a whole-exome sequencing study. His primary responsibilities consisted of conducting
research visits, handling data, and coordinating sample collections. Scott has been
preparing for the field of genetic counseling for many years now, so he is very excited
to be starting his education this year, especially at the University of South Carolina!
Sarah Dickman is from Cary, North Carolina. She graduated from the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. While
at UNC, she worked as a biology and chemistry peer tutor, an elementary school violin
teacher with Musical Empowerment, a community group leader with Cru, and an English
teacher to young students in Slovakia. Following graduation, she worked for two years
as a laboratory analyst for Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition, where she performed chromatographic
analysis on pharmaceutical grade amino acids. During this time, Sarah also enjoyed
volunteering for Crisis Text Line and for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.
She gained valuable knowledge about the field of genetic counseling through USC’s
online genetic counseling course, and by shadowing and interviewing cancer, laboratory,
prenatal, and pediatric genetic counselors. She is so excited to be a part of the
Class of 2023 and welcomes any questions about the application process or the program!
Annika Gadson is from Summerville, South Carolina. She graduated from Wofford College
in May of 2021 with a B.S in Biology and a minor in Sociology and Anthropology. While
attending Wofford, Annika was involved in a student-led Women of Color organization.
She also volunteered with the ARCH Afterschool Program, a program focused on serving
the underprivileged adolescent. Annika worked as a math tutor, an assistant to the
biology professors, and instructed dance classes in the evenings. During her senior
year, Annika co-led an independent study on Intersectionality and African American Feminist Thought, which focused on the epistemology of Black women’s experience with sexism and racism.
To gain more exposure to the field of genetic counseling, Annika spent a summer shadowing
cancer genetic counselors at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, California and Banner
Health in Phoenix, Arizona. Annika is excited to finally be a part of the Gamecock
Nation and is looking forward to becoming a genetic counselor!
Hayley Granger is from Jacksonville, Florida. She attended Florida State University
where she graduated in August 2017 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Biology.
During her time at FSU, Hayley volunteered with Helping Every Little Person, Inc.
and Crisis Text Line. These experiences solidified her interest in working with diverse
populations. Following graduation, Hayley worked as a Psychosocial Rehabilitation
Practitioner at The Arc Jacksonville, counseling adults with intellectual and development
differences. She later worked as a Neuropsychometrist where she administered cognitive
tests to patients to assist in the diagnosis of neurological diseases. In an effort
to gain additional exposure to genetic counseling, Hayley shadowed a variety of genetic
counselors throughout Florida. She also attended the NSGC’s Annual Conference in 2018
and completed the ‘Genetic Counseling: Career for the Future’ Course offered through
the University of South Carolina. Hayley is thrilled to be a part of The University
of South Carolina’s Genetic Counseling Program, Class of 2023! She welcomes any questions
about the program or the application process.
Allie Paltzer is from Naperville, Illinois. She graduated in May 2021 from the University
of Iowa with a B.S. in Biology on the Genetics and Biotechnology track and a B.A.
in English and Creative Writing in the Honors College. During her time at Iowa, she
participated in three years of research under Dr. John Manak, studying the connection
between epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease in Drosophila melanogaster. Allie additionally participated in the Personal Genome Learning Center, an organization
that gave monthly presentations and community events to the public about current topics
in genetics. Allie was also fortunate to study abroad in a writer’s program Spring
of 2020 in Dublin, Ireland. During her undergraduate years, she served as the President
of the Alpha Beta chapter of Alpha Delta Pi, mentored younger women in STEM through
Women in Science and Engineering, and volunteered as a crisis counselor with Crisis
Text Line. Allie is thrilled to be part of the Class of 2023 and is more than happy
to answer any questions about the program or application process!
Liz Pancake is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She graduated from Ball State University
in May 2021 with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Interpersonal Relations and Spanish.
During her undergraduate years, she worked with adults with disabilities through Easter
Seals Arc and volunteered with Crisis Text Line as a crisis counselor. Liz gained
exposure in the field of genetic counseling through shadowing, attending the INGC
conferences, and participating in webinars. At Ball State, she was the research lead
on a team focusing on identifying consanguinity and disease in generations of families.
Liz also led the Genetics Club and Pre-Genetic Counseling Club at Ball State, which
brought together a small group of students to learn about relevant topics and issues
in genetics and genetic counseling. During her Senior year, Liz completed her thesis
on how telemedicine has impacted the work/life balance of genetic counselors, which
provided valuable insight on the benefits and implications of this model. She is excited
to be in the USCGCP Class of 2023 and is happy to talk to anyone about the program
or application process!
Nisha Pandya is from Cary, North Carolina. She graduated from NC State University
in December 2020 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Genetics. Throughout
her undergraduate years, Nisha was involved with a student organization called MEDLIFE
that expands access to healthcare for low-income communities. She traveled to Lima,
Peru to volunteer with community members and local health professionals to help improve
accessibility to sustainable healthcare. Additionally, she was an undergraduate research
assistant for two projects in a neurobiology and genetics lab studying both genetic
engineering and stress coping styles. Nisha also volunteered in classrooms at the
Frankie Lemmon School in Raleigh, a school that is inclusive for children with disabilities.
When Nisha realized she was passionate about genetic counseling, she shadowed a prenatal
genetic counselor and interviewed additional genetic counselors working in prenatal
and pediatrics at UNC and Duke. Nisha is very excited to be a part of the USCGCP Class
Olivia Wilmarth is from Chesterfield County, VA. She graduated from Georgetown University
in 2020 with a major in Global Health and a minor in Disability Studies. During her
undergraduate years, Olivia was a member of the cheerleading team and an orientation
leader for new students. She completed her senior thesis on the implementation of
clinical genetics services in low-income countries, combining her interests in international
health and genomic medicine. After graduation, Olivia began working as a genetic counseling
assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Epilepsy Neurogenetics Initiative
(ENGIN) program. She gained valuable clinical experience in this role while learning
about the genetic basis of neurological disorders in the pediatric patient population.
Olivia is thrilled to be a member of the USC GCP Class of 2023 and can’t wait to see
what the next two years have in store!
Mikayla Jennings graduated from Clemson University in 2021, where she completed a
B.S. in Genetics with a minor in psychology. During her time at Clemson, Mikayla was
involved in ClemsonLife, a program providing college experience for individuals with
intellectual disabilities through initiatives that prepare them for employment and
independent living. She also worked as an anatomy and physiology peer tutor and volunteered
at Mental Health America - Greenville as a crisis intervention specialist. Following
graduation, Mikayla worked for one year as a genetic counseling assistant at the HudsonAlpha
Institute for Biotechnology. She gained valuable experience assisting on several research
projects and observing in their general genetics clinic. She also worked as a registered
behavior technician, implementing services in applied behavior analysis to individuals
with autism and other behavioral diagnoses. Mikayla is excited to be part of the Class
of 2024 and is happy to answer any questions!
Andrea Johnson graduated from the University of Maryland in 2022 where she completed
her degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Cell Biology and Molecular
Genetics. At UMD, she was an active member of the Pre-Genetic Counseling Society where
she served as the social media coordinator and vice president. She also was a part
of the UMD Scholars Science and Global Change living and learning program where she
was a teaching assistant. Outside of her involvement at UMD, Andrea interned with
Johns Hopkins Hospital's Genetic Counseling Clinic where she co-authored a paper on
Postnatal Progressive Craniosynostosis in Syndromic Conditions. Andrea was also an
active member of the greater Maryland community. She is a crisis counselor for the
Family Crisis Center of Baltimore County helping serve individuals experiencing intimate
partner violence. For two summers, she worked as a camp counselor at the Camp JCC
for young adults with disabilities. Andrea is excited to be a part of the USC genetic
counseling program and is happy to answer any questions about the program or application
Kayla Lashinger is from Orlando, Florida. She graduated from the University of Central
Florida in December of 2020 with a B.S. in Health Sciences. During her time at UCF,
she presented and published an undergraduate research project studying the relationship
between eating disorders and narcissism. In addition, she served as a UCF global ambassador
and worked with the Society for Scientific Advancement to promote STEM to students
in the US and the Caribbean. After graduating, she continued to serve as a crisis
counselor, interned with the Medical University of Wisconsin’s genetic counseling
program, and worked with a local nonprofit, Abilities Workshop, serving those with
special needs. Kayla is so excited to be part of the supportive genetic counseling
program at USC and is here for any questions you have along your journey!
Justine Manigault is originally from Township of Washington, New Jersey. She graduated
from the University of Florida in April 2022 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in
Sociology. During her undergraduate experience, she was involved in crisis counseling
at Alachua County Crisis Center which was a 24 hour hotline offered for all individuals
and set up free counseling for Alachua County residents. To further her counseling
exposure, Justine was a mentor to University of Florida students in the College of
Liberal Arts, providing insight on major options, class registration, and academic
advice. She was also a mentor for MentorGNV, an organization that offers University
of Florida students the opportunity to work with elementary, middle and high school
students on areas in academics, organization, and their own personal issues. Justine
also has a passion for promoting diversity in the world of GC as well as within her
peers. She was elected the Head of Race and Ethnicity under the DEIA committee within
her sorority and hopes to utilize those skills throughout her graduate experience
and career. She is grateful to be a part of the program and looks so forward to all
it has to offer.
Emily Mason is from Wooster, OH. She graduated from Denison University in 2019 with
a B.S. in Biology. During her time at Denison, she worked as a biology and chemistry
tutor, a nurses’s assistant at the student health center, and a student mentor through
the Big Brother’s Big Sisters program. After graduating she working in a genetics
research lab studying the genetic architecture of Parkinson’s disease in Latin American
populations. As a research assistant, Emily helped coordinate the recruitment, collection
and processing of incoming samples samples from over 24 sites across Latin America.
She also worked as a genetic counseling assistant at GeneDx. At this time Emily also
volunteered for Hope and Healing, a local survivor resource center. She interviewed
many genetic counselors to learn more about the genetic counseling field, and attended
many GC-related webinars. She is so excited to be a student at USC class of 2024!
Mary Elise Nolen is originally from outside of Birmingham, AL. She graduated from
Furman University in Greenville, SC in 2021 where she earned her B.S. in biology and
minored in Medicine, Health, and Culture. At Furman she pursued research in the intersection
between Southwestern American Indian healing traditions and westernized health care
systems. Next, she was a Theology, Medicine, and Culture Fellow at Duke Divinity School.
There she focused on disability theology and bioethics. Additionally, she shadowed
in a non-profit OB/GYN clinic that saw patients of varying insurance statuses and
volunteered with Reality Ministries for adults with disabilities. At USC she is Center
for Disability Resources grad assistant. Mary Elise is thrilled to be a part of the
USCGCP and welcomes anyone to reach out with questions!
Jen Ryan is from Montvale, New Jersey, and graduated from Wake Forest University in
2021 with a double major in Biology and Spanish and a minor in Chemistry. For her
honors thesis, she carried out research in a neuroscience lab looking at chemesthesis
in earthworms. During her time at Wake Forest, she served as a student leader in Jewish
life, participated in the Women in STEM organization, and acted as a tutor, mentor,
and student advisor. In the community, she visited patients at the local Hospice,
answered crisis counseling calls for HopeLine, and volunteered as a fitness and wellness
program monitor as well as a literacy tutor for GiGi’s Playhouse, an achievement center
for individuals with Down syndrome. Before starting graduate school, Jen completed
a one-year postgraduate Fellowship at Wake Forest in the Information Systems department,
where she worked on staff-student communications, technology accessibility policy
and procedure, and cybersecurity training and initiatives. She is excited for her
next two years in Columbia, and to be one of the LEND trainees in her cohort!
Aubrey Surian is from Burlington, CT. She graduated from the University of Connecticut
in 2022 with a double major in Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology. During her
time at UConn, she participated in three years of research under Dr. R. Holly Fitch,
where she completed her honor’s thesis studying the developmental outcomes of Foxp1 cerebellar-specific knockout mice. In addition, she volunteered as a mentor through
Big Brother’s Big Sister’s Program and as a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line.
She also worked as a high school tutor for ConnCAP, a program which aimed to help
first generation and low-income students graduate high school and guide them in applying
to and enrolling in college. Aubrey is very excited to be a part of the USC Genetic
Counseling Class of 2024 and is happy to answer any questions about the program or
Robin Urban is from Fairfax, Virginia. She graduated from Clemson University in 2022
with a degree in Genetics with minors in Psychology and Biochemistry. During her time
in school she participated in undergraduate research looking at woody plant genetics.
She was also a member of many student organizations including the National Society
of Leadership and Success, Sigma Alpha Lambda, a DJ at WSBF Clemson Radio, and was
a leader in the Hiking Club. On her journey to becoming a genetic counseling student,
she interned at ITMI Inova hospital where she shadowed under multiple genetic counselors
and helped on the 1,000 Days of Life Study. She also took the USC summer genetic counseling
course where she solidified her decision to become a genetic counselor. Robin is very
excited to be part of USC Genetic Counseling Class of 2024 as well as one of the LEND