Current student bios

Class of 2023

Batoul Elbassoiuny was born and raised in Egypt but spent the last 5 years before college in Saudi Arabia. At 18, she moved back to Egypt for college, and, in 2018, she graduated from the German University in Cairo (GUC) with a B.Sc. in Biotechnology with Highest Honors. During undergraduate study, she served as a junior teaching assistant for an analytical chemistry course and as a research assistant studying the toxicity of green silver nanoparticles on different cell lines. She interned as a GCA which she considers an eye-opening experience. Batoul also volunteered as a teacher for children in underprivileged communities in Egypt and participated in fundraising events for raising awareness about sustainable development and funding income-generating projects for underserved families. Upon graduation, she joined a research team developing a stem-cell targeted therapy for type I Diabetes. She continued to take part in volunteer activities with special needs kids and orphans. She also held talks for raising awareness about Biotechnology as a field of study and its unrealized merits. In her free time, she enjoys practicing calligraphy, playing violin, photography and reading. Batoul aspires to implement the first high-quality genetic counseling system in Egypt and she believes that she has what it takes.

Delaney Pease grew up in the very small town of Carlton, Minnesota. She earned her B.S. degree in Biology at the University of Minnesota Duluth where she held a position as President of the Women in Engineering and Science club and worked as an undergraduate TA. Outside of class, she volunteered as a sexual assault advocate for PAVSA providing crisis counseling and worked as a manager of a McDonald’s. After graduating, she worked in a clinical cytogenetics laboratory at Mayo Clinic using FISH to identify genetic mutations for patients. She shadowed genetic counselors at Mayo and volunteered with families on the pediatric outpatient unit. When COVID struck she volunteered to work the summer in the virology laboratory where she developed workflows and trained employees. When Delaney isn’t working, she enjoys backpacking the wilderness or exploring new cities with her husband, cooking yummy recipes, playing piano, and cuddling at home with her two rescued cats!

Ellory Wolin grew up in Chicago, Illinois as a fifth generation Chicagoan. She moved to the Twin Cities and graduated from Macalester College in 2020 where she studied biology, chemistry, and psychology. As an undergraduate student, she conducted research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center focused on the epigenetics of the gene Foxa1 and triple negative breast cancer. She also contributed to research at the University of Minnesota aimed at investigating interventions used to increase screening for familial hypercholesterolemia. Ellory has served as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line for over four years, and on Macalester’s campus, was the co-chair of two student organizations, Students Against Sexual Assault and Rape and Women in STEM. After graduation, she began working for Allina Health as a Research Project Specialist in the neurophysiology department. Ellory lives in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota with her partner and loves spending time with family, including her dogs, biking, baking, and painting.

Erin Aguero was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She graduated from the Honors College at Washington State University in 2015 with a B.S. in General Studies of Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Genetics and Cell Biology, and minors in Pre-Genetic Counseling and Spanish. During her undergraduate experience, she volunteered in a research lab studying DNA repair pathways and also on a crisis hotline. Upon graduation, she worked as Violence Prevention Educator at Clackamas Women’s Services providing domestic and sexual violence advocacy and prevention education to middle and high school students throughout Clackamas County, Oregon. During this time, she was a member of A Safe Place Family Justice Center Latina Leadership Committee working to develop support networks for the Latine population. She served on the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force to organize statewide prevention efforts. She also coordinated programming at Camp HOPE Oregon, a summer camp for youth who have experienced family violence. Erin then worked as a Research Assistant at Oregon Health and Science University, her research project focused on characterizing somatic mutations in the ROS1 gene to determine whether these mutations could be cancer causing and if they are sensitive to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in the hope that these inhibitors could be utilized for targeted therapy in patients with ROS1 mutant cancers. Most recently, she worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute where she coordinated pharmaceutical clinical research trials for the treatment of the genetic condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Her interests include reading, skiing, collecting vintage fashion, playing the banjo, and mutual aid.

Haley Fuoco grew up in Highland Park, IL. In May 2021, she graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelors of Science in Integrative Biology and a minor in Chemistry. As an undergraduate, she worked as a counseling center paraprofessional for the University of Illinois Counseling Center. Additionally, she worked as a student instructor and teaching assistant for organic chemistry and general chemistry. She also volunteered for Champaign County Court Appointed Special Advocates. In the summer, she worked as a Lewis Summer Intern for the Norton and Elaine Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics. In her free time, she enjoys playing saxophone, cooking, crocheting, and watching Marvel movies.

Inga Strinz was born in Eagan, Minnesota and spent her youth enjoying the beautiful wilderness of Dakota County. She graduated with honors with a BA in Japanese, Linguistics, and East Asian Studies from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013, after which she moved to northern Japan for three years to act as a translator, interpreter, and cultural liaison. She has over ten years of youth counseling experience through Concordia Language Villages, and is Youth Mental Health First Aid certified. In the summer, she volunteers for the parks system doing invasive species removal and dragonfly identification surveys. Throughout the year, she enjoys hiking, birding, playing video games, and spending time with her cat, Mortimer.

Mariah Volesky

Mariah Volesky grew up in the small town of Webster, South Dakota. At age 17, she enlisted in the South Dakota Army National Guard and attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, SC. In December 2020, Mariah graduated cum laude from the University of South Dakota with a B.S. in Biology-Cellular & Molecular Physiology, with minors in both Psychology and Military Science. With her bachelor’s degree, Mariah also commissioned as a Medical Service officer, and is currently serving in the 730th ASMC, based out of Vermillion, SD. Mariah has spent time researching in a microbiology lab at the Sanford School of Medicine, studying gene regulation in Streptococcus pyogenes. Her advocacy experience consists of working as a Certified Nursing Assistant in both a nursing home and a home health care setting, along with volunteering with the USD Special Olympics Club. Some of Mariah’s favorite hobbies include weightlifting, basketball, water skiing, or traveling back home to hunt and fish.

Nila Khan grew up in Dodge City, KS. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2021 with a B.A. in Biology. During her undergraduate experience, she worked as a research assistant and focused on the relationship between increasing levels of greenhouse gases and changes in leaf hair patterns. She also worked as a biology tutor for the Academic Achievement and Success Center. Additionally, Nila has also volunteered as a crisis counselor for the Kansas Suicide Prevention Headquarters, an administrative assistant at a free health clinic, and went to Panama with the Jayhawk Health Initiative to organize a clinic in an area with a severe lack of access to healthcare resources. Her interests outside of school include reading, painting, cooking, buying too many houseplants, and watching anime. 

Priyankar De grew up in West Bengal, India where he completed a bachelor’s degree in Genetics. As an undergraduate student, he studied the chemotherapeutic agent methotrexate-induced genotoxicity in Drosophila melanogaster.  He went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Biomedical Genetics from the Vellore Institute of Technology, India. During this time, he carried out a thesis project to understand the incidence of single umbilical artery in a prenatal clinic. Priyankar took a gap year and worked in a fetal medicine center in Bengaluru assisting in their genetic counseling services and coordinating genetic testing for the clinic. He served as the Lead intern in a telehealth-based company called Bluegene Healthtech Pvt Ltd and created content for its social media outreach. As an emotional support volunteer for cancer patients, he visited various hospitals across Bengaluru and specialized in palliative care. He is excited to contribute to the growth and diversity of this dynamic field. Priyankar spends his free time with his cats, singing and trying out his hand at cooking different cuisines.

Class of 2024

Lindsay Peifer was born in Illinois and raised in Minnetonka, Minnesota. She graduated with High Distinction from the University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities with a B.S. in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development and a French Studies minor. When she was 18, she discovered the XLH Network and became an advocate for individuals with her genetic condition, X-linked Hypophosphatemia (XLH). After falling in love with research from sequencing her own gene mutation, she joined a lab at the University of Minnesota investigating a possible treatment for Muscular Dystrophy via the differentiation of myogenic progenitors into functional muscle fibers. She also spent time volunteering for the Domestic Abuse Hotline and serving as Vice-President for the Pre-Genetic Counseling Club. After graduation, she worked as a Genetic Counseling Assistant with UT Southwestern Medical Center’s cancer genetics team in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and supported fellow chronic illness fighters as a Compassion Counselor with the Chronic Illness Hotline. Lindsay continues her role as a community member advisor for the first project examining the psychosocial differences between individuals with familial and de novo XLH. In her free time, she enjoys painting, cross-stitching, boating, and kayaking.

Hannah Zallek grew up in central Minnesota where she enjoyed the many seasons this great state offers. In 2019, she graduated from the College of St. Benedict with a B.A. in Biology and a minor in secondary education. As an undergraduate, Hannah performed research on the genetics of eyes in mice and led local preK-12 students on outdoor field trips. These experiences led her to becoming a high school teacher for three years where she taught physical science, biology, and environmental biology. She loved creating lessons and labs that got her students excited to be scientists. During this time, she also volunteered at Pathways4Youth - a safe space for youth experiencing homelessness to receive help. Her passion for genetics and supporting others led her to shift her plans to pursue genetic counseling. Hannah enjoys baking, reading, nature walks, watching Formula 1, and anything pop culture related!

Ariana Luna grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology with a minor in Philosophy from the University of Iowa in 2017. At the University of Iowa, she was introduced to genetic counseling through a genetic basis of disease course and Careers in Human Genetics seminar presented by the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics. After graduating, she worked for Alaska Airlines, Allina Health, and M Health Fairview, promoting customer experiences by working with passengers and patients through stressful situations. Outside of work, Ariana tutored at Mary’s Place in Minneapolis and volunteered as a crisis counselor at the Contra Costa Crisis Center. In 2020, she volunteered as a research assistant through the University of Minnesota Genetic Counseling program. In her free time, Ariana loves traveling, listening to music, re-watching Pride and Prejudice (2005), and spending time with her loved ones and cat.

Trishel Cruzado grew up in Southern California and graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2019 with her B.S. in Biology with a concentration in molecular biology. She first heard about genetic counseling in her junior year of undergrad when a genetic counseling student came to speak at one of her seminars. After graduating, she worked in retail and simultaneously held an internship at the University of California, San Francisco in the Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program. That internship transitioned into a full-time role as a genetic counseling assistant in the same program. As a GCA, she worked directly with the gastrointestinal team, led tumor boards, and regularly met with patients with an active cancer diagnosis to coordinate and order genetic testing. Trishel also volunteered at the Friendship Line, a call line providing seniors and adults with disabilities with emotional support, crisis intervention, and social connection. In her personal life she loves traveling, staying active, listening to live music, cooking and trying new restaurants.

Haley LeBlanc grew up in Medina, Ohio before attending college at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. During her undergraduate career she worked in a microbiology research lab investigating the use of bacteriophages to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria. As an intern at a biopharmaceutical company, she was able to assist on active gene therapy clinical trials for lysosomal storage diseases. After graduating with a B.A in Chemistry and a minor in Biology in the spring of 2020, she began working at a SARS-CoV-2 testing lab and managed a novel environmental surveillance project which tested and sequenced dust samples to determine what Covid-19 variants were present in the area. She was also able to gain experience as an intern at a cancer genetics clinic during this time. Since 2015 she has also been volunteering for Canine Companions, an organization that places service dogs with people who have physical and developmental disabilities, by raising service dogs in training. She has raised five dogs so far and is currently raising her sixth. In her free time Haley loves exploring parks, cheering on the Buckeyes, and trying new restaurants.

Kayla Nelson grew up in the small town of St. Stephen, Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities in 2022 with a B.S. in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development and minors in Spanish Studies and Psychology. Kayla was an active member of the UMN Pre-Genetic Counseling Club throughout her undergraduate career, in which she held a leadership role as the communications coordinator her senior year. She volunteered as a resource advocate for a Minneapolis-based organization, Tubman, connecting people with order for protection and pro-bono family law attorney resources. Kayla also volunteered at The Trevor Project as a crisis counselor working one on one with LGBTQ+ youth to help them navigate difficult times and to prevent suicide. As an undergraduate, Kayla was also a research assistant working with second year UMN GC graduate students on their thesis projects. During her junior year, the project focused on researching the emotional and social support needs of adolescents with alopecia. During her senior year, the project focused on researching the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and people of color genetic counselors in their preparation and taking of the ABGC certification exam. In her free time, Kayla enjoys cooking new recipes with her partner, exploring different restaurants and breweries in Minneapolis, playing all types of games (board, video, & yard), and spending time with her partner’s cat, Mr. B. 

Kara Lane is originally from Western Springs, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelors of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a minor in Chemistry, a Bachelors of Arts in Creative Writing, and a Masters of Engineering in Bioengineering where she completed a capstone project constructing a sensory wheel for mice to assist in studying electrical signals in mammalian brains.  Kara wore many hats during her time at U of I including: assisting pediatric hydration and adult cognition research at the Body Composition and Nutritional Neuroscience Laboratory, Master Alchemist (President) of the Zeta chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma the professional chemistry fraternity, organizing open mic nights as president of the Creative Writing Club, and Shakespeare actor.  After graduating with her masters, Kara worked at Epic Systems as a Quality Assurance Specialist for Beaker, Epic’s laboratory application becoming an expert in cross-application testing and creating educational content.  Kara credits her passion for genetic counseling and reproductive rights to the prenatal genetic counselors at Massachusetts General Hospital where she was the head genetic counseling assistant.  In her free time, Kara loves to write science fiction, brew, bake, and pet dogs and cats.

Saneela Ashraf grew up in Pakistan. She graduated in 2020 with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and a minor in Psychology. As an undergraduate, she did research work on how encapsulation of various strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae in hyperglycemic conditions affects the process of invasion, virulence, and evasion from macrophagic alveolar cells. After graduating she worked with the legal and counseling departments at an organization that aids survivors of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. She also interned at a local fertility clinic which helped her understand the inequities and disparities within the healthcare system. She is excited to be able to help the diversification of the field as well as work on how to dismantle barriers of inequity within the healthcare system. Some of her hobbies include painting, swimming, binging Netflix, annoying her cat with cuddles and anything Studio Ghibli.

Vera Swanson grew up in Rochester, Minnesota and spent her childhood on fishing and hunting trips exploring the state’s lands, waters, and wildlife. The connection to nature and her family inspired her to study Environmental Science and Russian at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. In college, she was a research assistant in limnology and grassland ecology labs while also dedicating herself to language learning through the Russian Flagship Program. These activities took her to northern Thailand’s remote rivers and the steppe and mountains of Kazakhstan. After graduation, she worked in botanical translation, communications for an agricultural non-profit, and federal consulting for a variety of government agencies. When contemplating the pursuit of genetic counseling, Vera devoted time as a patient volunteer at Seasons Hospice and as a sexual assault advocate for Victim Services’ crisis line. In Mayo Clinic’s Atherosclerosis and Lipid Genomics Laboratory, Vera also reviewed patient data for contribution to the Familial Hypercholesterolemia Identification Registry (FHIRE). In her personal life, she could spend hours scavenging at estate sales, mountain biking new trails, or identifying native wildflowers every spring.

Lawri Sanders (she/her/hers) was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a first-generation student, she graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May 2022 with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Biology. During her time as an undergraduate, she was a resident advisor and was a small group leader for OU’s incoming student orientation summer camp. Through the McNair Scholars Program, Lawri conducted research in a genetics laboratory where she investigated genes that contribute to the development of the posterior lobe in Drosophila melanogaster. In her free time, she enjoys doing nail art, obsessing over Big Brother and Survivor, dyeing her hair fun colors, and making TikTok videos!

Jenna Larson was born and raised in Plymouth, MN. She graduated with high distinction from the University of Minnesota in 2022 earning a B.S. in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development. As an undergraduate, she pursued a research interest in bioinformatics by characterizing a novel gene, C5orf24, and becoming first author on a publication investigating the impact of pathogenic germline variation within the KMT2 family of genes on infant leukemia predisposition. Jenna also served as a TA for a molecular biology course while continuing to learn more about the field of genetic counseling. Additionally, she valued her roles as a crisis counselor for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Special Olympics volunteer, and sexual violence prevention advocate on campus. In her free time, she loves spending summer days on the lake, crossing off travel destinations on her bucket list, and cheering on the Golden Gophers!

PhD student

Jacque Lyman grew up in Chandler, Arizona and graduated summa cum laude from Northern Arizona University with degrees in Biology and Spanish and a minor in Chemistry. During her undergraduate career, she worked as a researcher in conservation genetics and developed a noninvasive assay to detect environmental DNA of an endangered mammal. She studied abroad for two semesters in Spain at the University of Alicante where she took classes in ocean sports, culinary arts, and molecular genetics. Additionally, she interned in an andrology research lab optimizing gamete selection for assisted reproduction. Jacque was an Honors student mentor, crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line, and a volunteer for children with limb differences. She founded Northern Arizona University’s first multidisciplinary campus organization for Women in STEM to promote inclusion and advancement for underrepresented students. Jacque is an only child, despite being raised alongside a blue and gold macaw named Booboo. In her free time, Jacque enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and petting dogs.