Vanderbilt MGC Class of 2024
Mikaela Bradley is from Grand Rapids, Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Biopsychology, Cognition & Neuroscience and Spanish. At Michigan, Mikaela engaged in research about the importance of treatment guidelines through the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion. She also volunteered with Relay for Life and served as a support group leader for domestic violence survivors. For the past three years, Mikaela has worked with children with autism spectrum disorders both as a registered behavior technician and a training coordinator.
As someone with a genetic condition, Mikaela is very passionate about advocacy and has worked as the social media director for Neurofibromatosis Michigan since 2019. She has also served as a consumer reviewer for research applications submitted to the Neurofibromatosis Research Program through the Department of Defense. Mikaela looks forward to continuing this advocacy. In her free time, Mikaela enjoys hiking, reading, trivia nights, and cooking new recipes.
Serena Fleming graduated from Virginia Tech in 2020 with dual degrees in Clinical Neuroscience and Psychology. As an undergraduate student, Serena was president of the College of Science Student Ambassador Team, a Raft crisis hotline volunteer, head undergraduate research assistant for the Science and Practice Integration (SPI) Laboratory, and was employed as a certified nurse assistant. Serena was also a summer intern at the NIH where she completed a literature review examining the relationship between therapeutic alliance and patient outcomes in a medical setting for Dr. Lori Erby. After graduation, she worked as a medical assistant, health sciences consultant for NSF International, genetic counseling assistant at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, and as a volleyball assistant coach for a high school girls’ national team. She also enjoyed volunteering for Facing our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE). Serena spends her free time with friends and family, weightlifting, playing volleyball, listening to music, and exploring new places.
Mary Hurley grew up in Westerly, Rhode Island. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in December 2019 with a bachelor’s of science in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology. During her undergraduate studies, Mary worked in a research lab, exploring the correlation between PFOS contamination and an outbreak of pediatric cancers. She spent a summer volunteering at Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine, and at a Muscular Dystrophy Camp in Worcester, Pennsylvania, working with families affected by multiple different cancers and disorders. After graduation, Mary moved to Philadelphia to work at Penn Medicine’s Cancer Risk Evaluation Program as a genetic counseling assistant, where she has worked for a year and a half. In her free time, Mary likes to read, crochet, and workout, as well as enjoy every nice day outside.
Cecilia Kessler grew up in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2019 with a bachelor’s of science in biology and minors in studio arts and chemistry. During her undergraduate career, she was involved with the SEA-PHAGES lab which allowed students to discover and annotate their own bacteriophage genome. After graduation, she moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to work as an oncology genetic counseling assistant with Huntsman Cancer Institute. There, she worked and assisted in patient advocacy, patient care, and research. She aided in the efforts of the Broadening the Reach, Impact, and Delivery of Genetic Services (BRIDGE) research project. This project aimed to help increase accessibility and uptake of genetic testing services. In her free time, Cecilia runs a small art business to help recycle textile waste and raise money for a variety of charities. She also enjoys reading and running outdoors.
Joan Kornkven grew up in Northfield, Minnesota. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in psychology. During her undergraduate studies, she worked as a research assistant in a plant physiology lab where she researched the recovery methods of conifers from harsh winter temperatures. To follow her passion of helping others, she worked as a personal care attendant for a woman with spinal muscular atrophy. After graduation, she began working as a behavior therapist for children with autism spectrum disorder and interned as a genomics correspondent at Clover Genetics. On the weekends, Joan volunteers as an intervention advocate where she counsels victims of domestic violence. She played soccer competitively through college and still plays for fun. She also enjoys spending time outside, cooking, and trying new restaurants.
Rachel Lipson grew up in Rockville, Maryland. She graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, in December 2020 with a bachelor’s of science in biology and a minor in Music Industry. While pursuing her degree, Rachel completed three co-ops at an in vivo pharmacology lab at Sanofi Genzyme, the Artists & Repertoire division of Republic Records/Universal Music Group, and the Center for Mendelian Genomics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Since graduation from Northeastern, she has worked for Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a genetic counseling assistant in its Preventive Genomics Clinic and for Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center as a clinical research coordinator within the Pediatric Cancer Genetic Risk Program. Outside of genetics, Rachel is an accomplished musician, and in 2019, she released a collection of songs that she wrote, recorded, mixed, and mastered. In her free time, Rachel volunteers as a helpline counselor for Postpartum Support International and the Chronic Illness Hotline and enjoys painting, exploring new places, and playing games with friends.
Makenna Martin grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and earned her bachelor’s of science in biology at Florida Southern College in 2019. In undergrad, Makenna served as a teaching assistant for Behavioral Neuroscience and worked as a medical scribe in the emergency department and outpatient care. After graduating and working as an Admissions Counselor for her alma mater, Makenna followed her ambitions from Florida to Wisconsin, where she was offered a position as a Genetic Counseling Assistant with PreventionGenetics. During this time, she volunteered with Special Olympics and became a Student Ambassador for the United Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency Foundation. In her free time, Makenna loves playing pickleball, traveling, watching the sunset, and playing with her two cats (including one with polydactyly).
Lianna Paul grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Duquesne University in 2016 with a bachelor’s in biology and minors in biochemistry and English. During her undergraduate studies, she conducted research focused on symbiotic control of malaria through genetic modification of bacteria present in mosquito target organs. After graduation, Lianna worked in a clinical lab focused on risk stratification of patients with Barrett’s esophagus, a condition associated with an increased chance of developing esophageal cancer. She then began her role as a genetic counseling assistant at Geisinger Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute where she assisted genetic counselors in the clinic and coordinated expert panels for the Clinical Genome Resource (ClinGen). She also performed qualitative research with ClinGen’s patient registry, GenomeConnect. Additionally, Lianna volunteered with a family-based grief support group, leading discussions and activities for elementary-aged children who lost a close loved one. In her free time, she enjoys reading science fiction and taking walks.