Current Students & Alumni
First Years (Class of 2023)
Michelle Frees grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Davis in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Genetics & Genomics and a minor in Psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted research on zebrafish to investigate the role of a meiosis-specific cohesin protein. Her work helped uncover a novel sexually dimorphic reproductive phenotype, the results of which she documented as a co-author in a PLOS Genetics publication. To develop her counseling skills and support those in need of an empathetic listening ear, she trained and volunteered as a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line. After graduation, Michelle increased her exposure to the field of Genetic Counseling by working as a GCA in the Department of Pediatrics at the UC Davis Medical Center where she primarily supported patient care in the Metabolic and Lysosomal Storage Disorder clinics. In her free time, Michelle enjoys experimenting with new baking recipes, spending time outdoors, and honing her salsa dancing skills.
Justin Gomez-Stafford is from New Haven, Connecticut, and earned his BS Biology bachelor’s degree with a minor in genetic counseling at Eastern Connecticut State University. During his undergraduate journey, Justin did two years of independent research where he worked with the model legume plant Medicago truncatula and completed mRNA expression analysis and phenotypic characterization with novel mutants. In order to further his knowledge of genetic counseling, Justin was a cardiovascular genetic counseling intern at Yale New Haven Health. Here he gained exposure to new patient consult and results disclosures, while also assisting in clinical documentation and patient correspondence. Justin was also a member and captain of the ECSU Varsity Men’s Track and Field team, as well as the vice-president of the Pre-Health Society. As a member of other organizations, Justin worked to increase the healthcare related opportunities to aid in current students’ preparation for further education and their pursuit of healthcare related fields. Throughout his undergraduate journey, Justin rose awareness in regard to social justice issues within the various communities he was a part of and actively got the community involved through events and apparel. Justin’s hobbies include painting, cooking, exercise, and comic books.
Caitlin Harrington is from Jamestown, RI and graduated in 2019 from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. At Notre Dame, she conducted research on mosquitoes, utilizing the CRISPR/Cas9 system to knock out genes in the visual system. Her work helped progress a project aimed at understanding mosquito host-seeking behavior. Upon graduation, Caitlin joined the Repurposing Team of the Broad Institute Cancer Program. The team conducts research on FDA approved non-oncology drugs with the goal of identifying and studying compounds which selectively kill cancer cells. While at the Broad, Caitlin was exposed to the field of genetic counseling and enhanced her counseling skills through volunteer work at 7 Cups of Tea Online Counseling and Horizons for Homeless Children. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, running and skiing, as well as experimenting with vegetarian cooking.
Cheng-Wei (CJ) Jan is originally from Taipei, Taiwan. He graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology. As an undergraduate, CJ served as a researcher studying microfluidic devices and volunteered with the Fellowship for International Service & Health to promote sustainable development within domestic and international communities. CJ gained genetic counseling experience by shadowing genetic counselors at UCLA Health’s Cancer Genetics department. In addition, CJ has volunteered as a crisis counselor at IMALIVE - a suicide prevention textline. After graduating, CJ has spent the past 2 years at Invitae as part of the Clinical Lab Operations team where he worked as the sample processing lead of the Non-Invasive Prenatal Screening (NIPS) product and helped to expand the company’s global operation efforts, furthering his passion and excitement for genetic healthcare. In his free time, CJ enjoys exercising, trying new food (preferably cooked by someone else), following professional sports and watching reruns of TV shows that were popular in the 2000s.
McKenna (Kenna) Kumnick is from Danville, CA, and graduated with honors in 2021 from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and minor in Biology. In her time at Cal Poly, Kenna was involved in psychology research investigating the impact of emotional regulation strategies on distress levels and memory. Outside of research, Kenna gained counseling experience through a position as Health and Wellbeing chair. In this role she hosted anxiety support group meetings, compiled mental health resources, and served as an empathetic listener for anyone in need. In order to gain exposure to genetic counseling, Kenna held a summer internship with UCSF’s Cancer Genetics program, in which she shadowed multiple cases a week and input patient pedigrees on Progeny. In her free time, Kenna enjoys hiking, surfing, and reading.
Bryce Murray is a San Diego local who spent his early years growing up in Long Beach, CA. Bryce graduated in 2020 from Point Loma Nazarene University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Therapeutic Psychological. While studying as an undergraduate, Bryce participated in research studies at both PLNU and UC San Diego, investigating links between glycoproteins, proteoglycans and their possible application as biological markers for bladder cancer. He also spent much of his time as a senior level counselor for incoming freshmen, leading multiple group counseling sessions along with one-on-one growth plan therapy work. After graduating, he spent a year working with Biosettia Inc as a research assistant. This job offered him large amounts of exposure to practices involving gene sequencing and recognition, enzymatic digestion, ligation, cloning and purposeful mutation of COVID-19 antibody and COVID-19 spike protein DNA. In his free time, Bryce enjoys finding scenic overlooks, participating in athletics, backpacking through national parks, action movies, stand-up comedy, barbecuing and conversing with friends.
Diego Quintero is from Potter Valley, CA and graduated in 2021 from UC San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering/Bioinformatics and a minor in Mathematics. In community college, Diego first gained research experience through the Bruneau Lab at UCSF studying embryonic heart development in mouse models. After transferring to UCSD, he continued to do research in variant detection in Atriplex Lentiformis, breast cancer precision medicine, coronavirus biology, and optimization of novel sequencing methods. Diego loves to teach/mentor and has served as a Transfer Engineering Academic Mentor at UCSD, a College Assistance Migrant Program mentor aimed at helping first-generation children of migrant parents, and a scientific mentor to high school students through UCSF’s Quantitative Biosciences Institute internship program. Diego’s interest in Genetic Counseling stems from his desire to apply his genomics and teaching experiences with patients directly and is particularly interested in increasing awareness of this field and the services it provides in communities impacted by language or access barriers. In his free time, he loves to try new food, hang out with his dog, and dance Ballet Folklorico (traditional Mexican Folk dance).
Kendall Schmidt is from the Bay Area and graduated from Clemson University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Genetics and minor in Crop & Soil Environmental Science. While an undergraduate, Kendall gained research experience with carbohydrate accumulation in sorghum, mapping quantitative trait loci in maize, and gene expression and methylation changes in tomato ripening. She also conducted a thesis developing CRISPR Cas12a constructs to further research on glycosylase DNA repair. In addition to research, Kendall volunteered with Crisis Text Line and in palliative care to support the emotional needs of hospice patients. To gain insight into genetic counseling, she shadowed at a variety of settings and interned at the UCSF Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program. After graduating, she worked at Frontier Medicines in cancer drug development and disease biology research. In her free time, Kendall enjoys hiking, camping, and improv acting.
Taylor Shorten is a Boston transplant originally from Louisville, KY, and graduated from Boston College in 2013 where she majored in Psychology. Since then, she has founded and run a non-profit, Sharing America’s Marrow, which aims to dispel misconceptions about bone marrow donation and add potential donors to the registry. Taylor also was the Program Supervisor at a residential treatment facility for teenage girls in state custody suffering from the lasting impacts of trauma and abuse. While there, she re-designed and implemented a treatment program meant to deinstitutionalize their experience. Most recently, Taylor has acted as a counselor for foreign exchange students. She is excited now to specialize her counseling in the field of genetics and work with talented colleagues and faculty at Stanford. She specifically hopes to study current barriers to access for under-resourced populations. Taylor is a certified yoga instructor, amateur potter, and spends as much time as possible outdoors with her dog, Banjo.
Michaela Taylor is from Upper Marlboro, MD. She graduated from University of Maryland, College Park in 2018 with a dual degree in Biology and Psychology. As an undergraduate she worked with organizations such as Sister to Sister, where she served as a peer mentor, Do Good Challenge, where she completed a project that fundraised and educated her peers on human trafficking, and Humanity First, where she helped develop an educational curriculum that she taught to students in Haiti. Michaela was also involved in research that examined the color discrimination thresholds of the Cichlid fish Metriaclima benetos, which she published in The Journal of Experimental Biology. After graduating, Michaela went on to become a Post Baccalaureate CRTA Fellow at the National Institutes of Health. She studied the interactions of T-Cells and Glucocorticoids through the use of mouse models, cell culture, flow cytometry, CRISPR, and several other techniques. She moved from the NIH to work as a genetic counseling assistant in Inova’s Cancer Genetics Program. Michaela has volunteered at Crisis Textline and as a hospice volunteer. In her free time Michaela enjoys spending time with friends and family, Netflix, video games, reading, listening to podcasts, and finding new adventures with the help of Groupon.
Astrid Torres Zapata is from Castaños Coahuila, Mexico. She received her bachelor's degree in Medicine in 2017 from the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon, Faculty of Medicine. As an undergraduate, she completed her clinical clerkship at Hospital Universitario Jose Eleuterio Gonzalez, where she gathered patient care experience in internal medicine, psychiatry, obstetrics, pediatrics, among other departments. During her preparation, she worked at the Faculty's Poison Control Center hotline providing information and guidance to health care professionals and the general public regarding poisoning exposures and toxicological emergencies. She also participated in toxicology research, focusing on the clinical management and evolution of crotalic envenomations. After graduation, Astrid volunteered at Samaritan House San Mateo, a non-profit organization, as a medical interpreter. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her dogs, going to museums, visiting new places, hiking, and reading.
Lamrot Tulu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and immigrated to Sacramento, California. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento in Cell & Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry in 2020. She has worked as a peer monitor & tutor for a molecular biology class as well as TA in an advanced cell biology laboratory class. As an undergraduate, she discovered her love for genetics and was able to study the cause of Gene Amplification in the bacterium Acinetobacter baylyi in a genetics research lab on campus. To gain more experience, she shadowed a genetic counselor at the UC Davis MIND Institute and served as a crisis line advocate. After graduation, she volunteered at Imani Clinic, a student-run clinic where she discovered her passion for increasing equity and advocacy in underserved communities. In her free time, she likes hiking and trying new food with loved ones.
Brianna Tucker is from the Northern California Bay Area. In 2014, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from California State University, Northridge where she also competed as a track and field athlete. As a career path changer coming from the legal field, she later studied in the UC Berkeley Extension Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions Program and explored the genetic counseling profession through volunteering with the Stanford Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease (SCICD). Brianna then worked as a clinical research coordinator with SCICD and the Undiagnosed Diseases Network, supporting clinical trials for patients with heart failure, inherited cardiomyopathies, and rare, undiagnosed diseases. In addition, she has engaged in community volunteer work including counseling for a suicide and crisis hotline and teaching English with the English Language Learners In-Home Program. Brianna enjoys making and trying new foods, staying active, improv acting, crafting, and studying Spanish.
Jemal (Jay) Vaunado II is originally from Detroit, Michigan. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Behavior at Columbia University in 2021. During his undergraduate studies, Jay was a leader of Columbia University’s Varsity Track and Field Team and volunteered as a health educator in communities of color through Peer Health Exchange. In his time as a health educator, he served under-resourced high schools throughout New York City. During one of his summers, he aided in research at the University of Michigan which analyzed the relationship between the expression of certain genes and callus formation. Later, to gain a deeper understanding of genetic counseling, he participated in Iowa’s Topics in Genetic Counseling Webinar Series which covered salient topics within the field. Additionally, he shadowed cases in family planning, prenatal, cancer and rare diseases genetic counseling through Columbia University’s Experiential Practicum. In his free time Jay enjoys hiking, fighting games, exercise, and writing.
Second Years (Class of 2022)
Beatriz (Bea) Anguiano is originally from South Los Angeles. She received her bachelor’s degree in 2014 at UC Davis in Psychology & Chicana/o Studies, with a minor in Human Development. Then in 2015, she completed the Stanford Prevention Research Center’s Health 4 All fellows certificate program. For the past four years, Beatriz has worked as a Bilingual (English/Spanish) Research Associate at UCSF on NIH-funded grants exploring the application of genomics in prenatal and pediatric populations. Her research experience includes working in projects related to Newborn Screening, Biobanks, the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of genomic research, ethnography, and deliberative community engagement forums. She has gained exposure to Genetic Counseling in her role on The Program in Prenatal and Pediatric Genomic Sequencing research study. During her free time, Beatriz likes to play board games, complete puzzles, make banana bread, cook delicious Mexican food, listen to true crime podcasts, and take hikes.
Claire Barton is from Los Gatos, California and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Vanderbilt University in 2019. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant with a team creating a large database of cancer patients with various inherited genetic mutations. Part of her work included educating the study’s participants about their mutations and the pro-bono genetic counseling services offered by the team. Claire was also active in the Tennessee genetic counseling community, and helped found Vanderbilt’s genetic counseling club. After graduation, she moved to Madrid, Spain where she taught English to high school students and met with the Spanish healthcare professionals expanding the genetic counseling field in Europe. In her free time, Claire enjoys cooking new vegetarian recipes, practicing yoga, rock climbing, and keeping up with synchronized swimming since her retirement from the US national team.
Kirsten Blanco is from Orange County, California and graduated from UCLA in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. As an undergraduate, she worked in physician and medical resident wellness in addition to volunteering teaching yoga and nutrition to elementary and middle school children at the UCLA Community School. Since graduating, she has taken on many roles in Clinical Affairs Research at Ambry Genetics under the guidance of many genetic counselors, such as a research assistant for projects in diagnostic exome sequencing and neurology panel testing as well as clinical research coordinator managing numerous studies assessing the clinical utility of genetic testing in the medical management of hereditary conditions. She gained exposure to the clinical aspects of genetic counseling as an intern in the ALS/Neuromuscular Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. In her free time, Kirsten loves to spend time near the ocean, create new recipes in the kitchen, and practice yoga.
Sabina Cook was born in California but grew up in southern New Jersey. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Environmental Biology. As an undergraduate, Sabina conducted research using genetic tools to study meiotic mechanisms in yeast, and volunteered as a Patient Advocate in the Information Resource Collective at the Berkeley Free Clinic where she connected homeless and/or uninsured individuals with low-cost/free medical and social services within the community. The summer after graduation, she interned at UCSF Mount Zion with the High Risk Cancer Genetics team where she got first-hand experience of what genetic counselors do in clinical settings. Sabina then moved to NYC where she worked as a Research Associate at NYU Langone Health developing novel zebrafish mutants using CRISPR-Cas9 to study molecular mechanisms of cerebrovascular regeneration, and then moved onto a role in a biology core where she helped various researchers use robotics to scale up bench experiments. In her free time, Sabina loves playing video games with friends, taking walks, eating, and hanging out with her dog.
Malika Freund is from Saratoga, California and earned a bachelor's in Human Biology from Stanford in 2014, where she deepened her passion for sharing science through teaching and art and discovered a passion for peer counseling. After graduating, she taught high school science in the San Francisco Bay Area and has recently completed her doctorate in Human Genetics from UCLA. Malika decided to become a genetic counselor during her PhD through shadowing a genetic counselor and volunteer counseling for an after-abortion emotional support talkline. Malika enjoys graphic design and art projects, bonding with her dog, and baking and eating fresh bread.
Jacqueline (Jackie) Fung is from New York, NY and graduated from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2014. While an undergraduate student, she worked in a lab that investigated metabolic therapies for chronic diseases including epilepsy and autism. She was also an active member in various cultural organizations on campus. After graduating, Jackie stayed in Boston and worked in various research positions at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Her wet-lab experience focused on cancer genetics, while her clinical research experience centered on neurodegenerative diseases. Through her involvement with BIDMC’s Huntington’s Disease Center of Excellence; Cognitive Neurology Unit; and Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program, she discovered the importance of genetic counseling. In her spare time, Jackie enjoys visiting loved ones in NYC and Boston. She is also very fond of baked goods and sweets.
Wesley (Wes) Ho is from Cherry Hill, NJ and graduated from Wesleyan University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Behavior. As an undergraduate, he volunteered on a Hospice and Palliative Care unit, was the captain of the Wesleyan University Men’s Swim Team, and conducted research on bacterial speciation. Following graduation, Wesley was involved in research at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania studying the genetic and epigenetic basis of diabetes and metabolic disorders. Afterwards, he became a clinical research coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia within the Allergy and Immunology Division studying asthma development in children with a history of hospitalization due to bronchiolitis and the effects of Oral Immunotherapy. To gain exposure to the field of genetic counseling, he shadowed several genetic counselors within the Penn and CHOP medical community. In his free time, Wesley enjoys hiking with his dog, swimming, and playing soccer.
Claire Murphy is from Sacramento, California and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. As an undergraduate, she conducted research at UC San Diego, investigating the relationship between genetics and the immune system in the Drosophila model. After graduation, Claire worked as a Genetic Counseling Assistant at UCSF, where she regularly met with patients, worked directly with the clinic’s Medical Geneticist, and helped create and research an alternate service delivery model in the breast cancer patient population which shortened turnaround time in getting genetic test results to patients and providers. Additionally, she volunteered at the Friendship Line, the only accredited crisis line in the country for seniors and adults living with disabilities. In her free time, Claire enjoys listening to podcasts, spending time in Lake Tahoe, and honing her ping pong skills.
Callan Russell is from McDonough, Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Genetics and minor in Music. As an undergraduate, she conducted research using bioinformatics to study population dynamics and wrote her senior thesis on photomorphogenesis and heat tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana DNA methylation mutants. Throughout her time at UGA, Callan co-founded the first genetics club at the university, G.E.N.E.S., volunteered with Extra Special People, a nonprofit serving children and young adults with developmental disabilities, and coordinated performance events as band captain of the Redcoat Marching Band. Additionally, she spent time at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine’s Genetic Counseling Program as their 2019 summer intern. In her free time, she enjoys playing the trombone, as well as board games and finding anything to laugh at from stand-up comedy to movies.
Sarah Sturm is originally from Burlington, North Carolina. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2018 with bachelor's degrees in Biochemistry and Psychology, as well as a minor in Chemistry. As an undergraduate, Sarah served as a biochemistry peer mentor, undergraduate researcher, TA, and positive mental health advocate for the counseling center. She has also worked as a special needs caretaker, exam scribe, and has volunteered with Crisis Text Line and the Special Olympics. For the past two years, Sarah has worked as a Genetic Counseling Assistant with a fantastic team of GCs at Geisinger (and would not be here without them!) In addition, Sarah has a wide variety of genetic counseling experience in lab, clinic, and leadership settings across several states. In her free time, Sarah enjoys cooking, dancing, expanding her plant collection, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Leena Tran is from Santa Ana, California and graduated from the UCLA in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. As an undergraduate, she supported other students as a Resident Assistant, volunteered in the Child Life unit at the UCLA Medical Center, and served as a Learning Assistant for an introductory genetics course. As part of MESH (Medical Experience through Service in Healthcare) at UCLA, she also had the opportunity to support underserved communities through volunteering at Venice Family Clinic and organizing free health fairs in Los Angeles. To gain experience with genetic counseling, she shadowed genetic counselors in the Samuel Oschin Cancer Center at Cedars-Sinai. After graduating, Leena worked as a New Student Advisor for UCLA New Student Orientation and then as a volunteer at Karate for All, an occupational therapy-based martial arts program supporting children with disabilities. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, eating her favorite ice cream at Salt & Straw, and taking trips to the beach.
Ken Vittayarukskul is from El Monte, California, and he graduated from UC Irvine in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Genetics. During his undergraduate career, Ken studied how novel microRNAs were implicated in increased proliferative and invasive capabilities in non-small cell lung cancer. After leaving college, Ken worked at Zymo Research as part of the Assay and Platforms Development team where he participated in creating the company’s flagship next-gen sequencing technologies for RNA. This was coupled with shadowing the genetic counselors at the St. Joseph Hospital Cancer Genetics Program and serving as a crisis line volunteer at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In his downtime, Ken enjoys reading, photography, Muay Thai, tennis, and spending time with others.
Megan Yabumoto is from the Bay Area and received her bachelor's degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology with a minor in Society and Genetics from UCLA in 2020. As an undergraduate, Megan conducted research on molecular mechanisms underlying rare diseases. She also volunteered with patients with varying degrees of dementia, peer counseled students with anxiety and depression, and worked with children at a confidential women's shelter in South Santa Clara County. To gain exposure to the field of genetic counseling, Megan was a volunteer at the Stanford Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease and a leader for UCLA's Genetic Counseling Student Interest Group. She enjoys volunteering in the Japanese-American community, playing basketball, reading books recommended to her by friends, and baking sweets in her free time.