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 2021
Jackie Baquet is originally from Plano, Texas but went to high school in Greenwood,
South Carolina. Jackie graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.S.
in Biology and a minor in Psychology. During her time as an undergraduate, she was
president of USC’s chapter of TriBeta National Biological Honor Society and was involved
in Sustainable Carolina where she educated elementary-school children on sustainability
practices and the environment. She also worked as a research assistant analyzing the
genome of Mytilus mussels and spent Maymester in the United Kingdom conducting this study. Jackie volunteers
with Strikers, a youth soccer team for children with special needs, and is coming
up on her third season as an assistant coach! To gain more exposure in the field,
Jackie worked as a Genetic Counselor Assistant for the USC Genetic Counseling Program
and interned in the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at the Greenwood Genetic Center.
Naomi Barker is from Columbus, Ohio. She attended Denison University in Granville,
Ohio where she graduated in May 2017 with a B.S. in Biology. At Denison, Naomi was
a member of the varsity soccer team, tutored as a Teaching Assistant for the Data
Analytics and Statistics departments and studied internationally. During her time
in Denmark and India, she conducted public health research and advocated for women’s
health issues. After graduation, Naomi worked at Nationwide Children’s Hospital where
she designed an R program that used patient gene expression responses to identify
gene mechanisms involved in patient survival. To gain more exposure to the field of
genetic counseling, Naomi interned at Johns Hopkins McKusick- Nathans Institute of
Genetic Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. During that time, she enjoyed volunteering
as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line. Naomi is excited to be down south studying
at University of South Carolina!
Cooper Hall is from Tustin, California. She graduated from Clemson University in May
2019 with a B.S. in Microbiology and a minor in Genetics. During her undergraduate
years, Cooper volunteered with the Family Effect providing childcare and volunteeredas a caregiver with Homestead Hospice.She also participated in research, working in Dr. Barbara Campbell’s Microbiology
Lab where she characterized members of the Bacteroidetes phylum. As part of this research experience, she presented her research at the American
Society of Microbiology National Convention. Cooper was first exposed to the career
of genetic counseling through an internship at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
To gain more experience with genetic counseling, she shadowed prenatal, pediatric,
and cancer genetic counselors at Greenwood Genetic Center, Fullerton Genetic Center,
Gibbs Cancer Center, and Spartanburg Regional Outpatient Center Maternal Fetal Medicine.
She is excited to be part of University of South Carolina’s Genetic Counseling Class
Taylor Kupneski graduated from the University of Cincinnati in the spring of 2019
with a B.S. in Biological Sciences with a Cellular/Molecular concentration and minored
in Chemistry and Business Management. She also earned a Pre-Medical certificate. During
her undergraduate career, she volunteered with multiple organizations including A
Voice for the Innocent and the Center for Courageous Kids. She worked as a Peer Leader, facilitating
Learning Communities for first year students. She also worked at Cincinnati Children’s
Hospital Medical Center researching efficient utilization strategies of Proton Radiation
Therapy and worked with a small mouse model project on Fanconi Anemia. She also served
on the executive board of Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society as the Director
of Social then Co-President, as well as on the Programming Council of Zeta Tau Alpha
Fraternity as the Greek Philanthropy Chairman. She was also active in intramural sports,
College of Arts & Science Tribunal, and Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Medical Honor Society.
She is thrilled to be a part of USC’s genetic counseling program!
Dacia Lipkea is from North Liberty, Iowa. She graduated from the University of Iowa
in December of 2018 with a B.S. in Biology. During her time at the University of Iowa,
Dacia spent two years working in Dr. Andrew Forbes’ molecular ecology lab investigating
the role that host use plays in driving divergence among a species of neotropical
insect and earning an honors distinction by completing an undergraduate thesis. She
also volunteered as a crisis counselor at CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank
and participated in a student group called the Personal Genome Learning Center, which
gave monthly talks to the public about current topics in genetics. Dacia decided she
wanted to become a genetic counselor her sophomore year and gained experience with
genetic counseling and genetics by shadowing many of the counselors at the University
of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and working in the hospital’s cytogenetic laboratory.
Dacia is very excited to be a part of this awesome program!
Allie Merrihew is from Charleston, SC. She graduated from the University of Maryland,
College Park in 2013 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. Upon completing her degree,
Allie remained at the University of Maryland in a neurobiology lab as a research assistant
investigating synaptic connectivity by 3D reconstruction of neuronal circuits. She
then went on to work in the healthcare industry, gaining experience in business processes
and identifying and educating about trends in healthcare. Allie realized her passion
and love for genetic counseling after leaving the industry side of healthcare to work
as a genetic assistant in the general genetics clinic at the Greenwood Genetic Center
in Charleston, SC, predominantly seeing pediatric patients served by the South Carolina
Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (SCDDSN). Here she gained experience
in obtaining the initial portion of genetic consultations, talking with families about
testing that was offered, and following up with families to provide resources and
support. Allie is beyond excited to be a part of the USC’s Genetic Counseling Class
of 2021 and is more than happy to answer any questions from prospective students!
Aubrey Rose graduated from Ohio State University with a B.S. in Molecular Genetics
and a minor in Clinical Psychology and Individual Differences. During her time at
OSU, she was involved in the Undergraduate Genetic Counseling Club and volunteered
as a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line. Aubrey also worked as a research assistant
at OSU, most recently in Dr. Noah Weisleder’s lab studying membrane repair in Duchenne
Muscular Dystrophy. She earned honors research distinction by completing her undergraduate
thesis in the Weisleder Lab. One of her favorite experiences was presenting her research
at the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting in Orlando, FL. Aubrey discovered genetic
counseling her sophomore year and learned more about the field by shadowing genetic
counselors at OhioHealth and Nationwide Children’s medical center. She’s so excited
to be part of USCGCP’s class of 2021!
Maddie Tjoelker is from Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from Trinity Christian College
in 2018, with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Psychology. She first
heard of genetic counseling in an introductory biology class and, after doing more
research and witnessing the field firsthand, she knew that genetic counseling was
the field she wanted to pursue. In addition to shadowing and personal research, Maddie
was able to do her honors research project on the biological, psychological and ethical
implications of direct-to-consumer genetic testing and was able to present her work
at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research. Following graduation, she worked
as a genetic counseling assistant for a cancer genetics clinic and was also able to
shadow counselors in prenatal, pediatric, and cardiac settings. She also was involved
at a local youth center in Columbus, providing a safe environment for kids and young
adults in the local community. Maddie is thrilled to be a part of USC’s Genetic Counseling
Class of 2021!
Jewel Wasson is originally from Charlotte, NC and graduated from NC State in May 2019
with a B.S. in Genetics and minors in Spanish and Biotechnology. Throughout college,
Jewel was part of the Goodnight Scholars Program where she participated in local and
international STEM education outreach and mentored incoming freshmen Goodnight Scholars.
She was also the president of Shelton Student Delegates club, a Crisis Text Line counselor
and Organic Chemistry teaching assistant. Jewel was fortunate to study abroad in Segovia,
Spain in the summer of 2017. She participated in undergraduate research throughout
college and worked in a neuroendocrinology and genetics lab during her sophomore,
junior and senior years. She gained genetic counseling experience by shadowing various
specialties at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed hospitals. During the summer before coming to
USC, Jewel worked as a home health aide helping individuals with disabilities complete
daily care tasks. Jewel is looking forward to her time at USC, and she welcomes any
prospective student questions about the program!
Kayla Blankenship graduated from the College of Charleston in 2020 where she completed
a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Molecular Biology and a minor in Neuroscience.
During her time there, she spent 4 years working in a lab studying MEF2C haploinsufficiency
syndrome, a syndromic form of autism. In addition to this, Kayla served as a peer
counselor for her undergraduate institution where she assisted fellow students through
various challenges they faced. She decided she wanted to become a genetic counselor
during her sophomore year of college. After this decision was made, she shadowed one
prenatal and one pediatric genetic counselor. She is happy to be back in the Columbia
area and is extremely excited to be a part of the USC Genetic Counseling Program!
Romy Fawaz is originally from Lebanon but grew up in Lawton, Oklahoma. She graduated
from the University of Oklahoma (OU) in 2018 with a B.S. in Biology and Biochemistry.
During her time at OU, Romy’s undergraduate research was focused on evolution and
natural selection of different fish species, with thoughts of becoming an evolutionary
biologist; that same professor later mentioned genetic counseling as a potential career
opportunity her junior year. After graduation, she began working at Harvard Medical
School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts as a clinical research
coordinator for Genomes2People, a highly specialized group focused on conducting research
in hopes to accelerate the implementation of genomic medicine and precision health.
She worked on large NIH funded research initiatives including MedSeq, BabySeq, and
PeopleSeq. Romy is ecstatic about being a part of the USCGCP Class of 2022 and to
be in a city with some warm weather for outdoor activities! She welcomes any questions
regarding the program.
Grace Hollingsworth is from Greenwood, South Carolina. She attended Wofford College
in Spartanburg, SC where she graduated in May 2020 with a B.S. in Biology and a concentration
in Medical Humanities. During her time in college, Grace volunteered at many different
organizations including as an orientation staff leader for incoming freshmen, a Young
Life leader to high school students attending Dorman High School, and a recruitment
counselor during Greek recruitment. Grace also spent a January term shadowing different
therapists at the Meyer Center, a school that provides education and therapeutic services
to special needs children. Grace worked as a Genetics Laboratory Teaching Assistant
during her senior year of college while she conducted research on cell regulation
of Breviolum minutum in low phosphate conditions. In order to complete her concentration in Medical Humanities,
Grace completed her senior thesis on the ethical considerations of human germline
editing. To gain more exposure to the field of genetic counseling, she shadowed a
prenatal genetic counselor at Spartanburg Regional Outpatient Center Maternal Fetal
Medicine. Grace is beyond excited to be a part of USC’s Genetic Counseling Class of
Madeline Ladouceur is originally from Whitby in Ontario, Canada. She graduated from
The University of Western Ontario in April 2020 with an Honors BSc in Genetics. As
an undergraduate student Madeline volunteered with Let’s Talk Science, an organization
that sends university students to classrooms and community events to run STEM-related
activities with kids. She was also a volunteer with the Canadian Mental Health Association
Support Line. In addition to her work in the community, Madeline volunteered in Dr.
Anne Simon’s research lab focusing on the role genetics plays in the social behaviour
of Drosophila melanogaster. Madeline gained exposure to the field of genetic counseling
through her work as a laboratory management program intern with eviCore Healthcare.
This opportunity allowed her to speak with many genetic counselors about the field
while gaining valuable experience in utilization management. Madeline is thankful
and appreciative of all of her support networks and is excited to begin her next chapter
with USC’s Genetic Counseling Class of 2022.
Corinne Locke graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2017 with a B.S. in
Biology and a Minor in Dance. While in college she was initiated as a member of the
national honor society Phi Kappa Phi. She completed her honors thesis A Study of Pain, Experiential Avoidance, and Emotions in Different Skill Levels of
Ballet Dancers and graduated with honors. After graduating, Corinne volunteered as a crisis counselor
for Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE). She then worked at Prenatal Diagnosis
of Northern California as a genetic counseling assistant helping women with high risk
pregnancies. She also volunteered at University of California, Davis in the Division
of Genomic Medicine for a year, working in the metabolic clinic, precision medicine
clinic and newborn screening. For two summers, she enjoyed volunteering for the Special
Olympics. The following year, she worked as a genetic counseling assistant in the
Hereditary Cancer Program at University of California, Davis. To gain more exposure
to the field, she shadowed a genetic counselor at Emory Genetic Lab and a prenatal
counselor in Ohio. Corinne is excited to move all the way to South Carolina to be
a part of the USC Genetic Counseling program! She is happy to answer any questions
about the program or the application process.
Megan Michalski is from Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated from Clemson University
in May 2020 with a B.S. in Genetics and minors in Psychology and Spanish Studies.
While attending Clemson, Megan was involved in Clemson LIFE which is a program dedicated
to providing college education and teaching independence to individuals with intellectual
disabilities. She is grateful for the friendships she made with the students while
acting as a classroom assistant tutoring them in math skills, life skills, and self-advocacy.
Megan was also a volunteer at Mental Health America - Greenville, where she was a
crisis-line counselor and phone operator helping individuals through a variety of
crises. The summer after her freshman year, Megan traveled on a medical mission trip
to Costa Rica to learn of health disparities in the world, aid the community in Costa
Rica, and expand her Spanish knowledge. In the summer of 2019, she studied microbiology
in Poland, where she explored her familial heritage and perfected her native Polish
language. Megan is so excited to be a part of the UofSC Genetic Counseling Class of
Rachel Nicely is originally from Woodbridge, VA and graduated from Virginia Commonwealth
University in May 2018 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Psychology. During her
undergraduate career, she began volunteering as a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate with
Action in Community Through Service, a local non-profit organization aiming to serve residents
of Prince William County. During her senior year she conducted undergraduate research
in the Prosser laboratory, studying a candidate suppressor gene for an ALS-related
phenotype. Shortly after graduating she accepted a position at GeneDx working as a
Genetic Counseling Assistant in the Neurogenetics department. There, she aided both
neurogenetics and mitochondrial/metabolic departments and gained relevant knowledge
about laboratory genetic counseling. Rachel has been loving Columbia living and is
ecstatic to be a gamecock. She is happy to answer any questions about the program
or provide any guidance on the application process!
Allison Perez was born in Raleigh, North Carolina but spent most of her childhood
in Evergreen, Colorado. She graduated from Montana State University in May of 2020
with a B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology and minors in Psychology and Genetics.
As a part of her undergraduate experience, Allison was an active undergraduate researcher
in the Schmidt Lab. Her work focused on the biochemical synthesis of isotopically
labeled amino acids, antioxidant-oxidant interactions, and sulfur metabolism in genetically
engineered mouse livers. Throughout her time at MSU, Allison enjoyed getting involved
in the Bozeman community. Allison volunteered as a mentor with Big Sky Youth Empowerment,
working with teenagers in the Bozeman area to help them cope with their past and prepare
for changes and choices as they enter adulthood. Allison is so excited to be attending
The University of South Carolina and cannot wait to be a Genetic Counselor!
Mary Catherine Smith is from Sumter, South Carolina. She graduated from Clemson University
in December 2019 with a B.A. in Biochemistry and a minor in Biological Sciences. She
graduated with general and departmental honors in Biological Sciences after writing
her thesis on the anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects of extracted compounds
from Physalis peruviana and Vernonia cinerea Less. Mary Catherine participated in
the EUREKA! Honors Research Program in the summer of 2016 and continued her involvement
in research through Clemson’s Creative Inquiry Program for the rest of her time in
undergrad. The summer before her senior year she also participated in MUSC’s summer
undergraduate research program where she worked on cancer research, specifically targeting
oncogenic RAS mutants with monobody proteins. Starting her junior year, she became
a volunteer advocate for victims of sexual assault at Foothills Alliance. She is excited
to be a part of UofSC's Genetic Counseling Class of 2022!