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Vanderbilt MGC Class of 2026

Elise Abney is from Zionsville, Indiana, and graduated from Purdue University in 2024 with a Bachelor of Science in genetics and minors in chemistry, psychology, and spanish. At Purdue, she worked as a research assistant in a cancer genomics lab, studying the oncogenic regulation of angiosarcoma. Beyond research and academics, Elise held leadership roles within campus clubs including College Mentors for Kids and Pre-Genetic Counseling Club. She also volunteered with Crisis Text Line and as a student clinician for Pete’s Pals, where she mentored children with disabilities.

One of her most impactful experiences has been conducting research on women’s reproductive healthcare in Florence, Italy. In her free time, Elise enjoys cooking, going to concerts, and traveling.

Robin Bluejoy is from Largo, Florida, and graduated from the University of South Florida in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in biology.

Following graduation, Robin served as an engineer officer within the U.S. Army, fulfilling various roles, notably as the Medical Section Supervisor amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. During her time in the military, Robin was a vocal advocate for fostering an atmosphere of advocacy, mentorship, and empathy. Her efforts resulted in a more cohesive team environment, where Soldiers felt supported and empowered to succeed.

After being honorably discharged, Robin worked with the Kansas Department for Children and Families. In her role, she provided direct assistance to families and individuals across the state of Kansas facing economic hardships and other social determinants to health. She used her free time to volunteer and collaborate with the Department’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee to create an Intersectionality Training Opportunity for all state employees. This training opportunity focused on difficult questions when confronting innate biases that affect social worker’s abilities to assist in their communities.

Outside of her professional pursuits, Robin enjoys flying Cessnas and embarking on adventures with her significant other. She is also passionate about animal welfare and actively volunteers with local rescue agencies to identify and find homes for stray animals in need.


Grace Branger grew up in Gilmanton, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in genetics and genomics and a minor in disability rights and services. As an undergraduate, she served as the president of the Pre-Genetic Counseling Organization and helped other students interested in genetic counseling become more familiar with the field. In addition, she found her true passion for disability advocacy by working both as a respite care provider for children with disabilities and volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse as a math tutor. During the last year of her bachelor’s degree, she also worked as a prenatal genetic counseling assistant in the Center for Perinatal Care at Meriter Hospital in Madison, WI. In her free time, Grace loves to explore the outdoors and spend time with her friends and family. She also loves to do crafts and recently took up crocheting.


Natalie Ceelen grew up in Mequon, Wisconsin, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Genetics & Genomics and a minor in Global Health. During her undergraduate studies, she worked as a research assistant examining the effects of epigenetic markers on neurological disorders related to Autism Spectrum Disorder and Alzheimer’s Disease. Natalie was also the president of UW-Wishmakers On Campus, a student-led organization that fundraises and supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Outside of school, Natalie worked as a Respite Care Provider where she provided one-on-one care for a young boy with severe autism, depression, and anxiety. She also worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) where she provided compassionate, patient-focused care to a diverse patient population at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.

After graduation, Natalie worked as a Genetic Counseling Assistant (GCA) at The Mitochondrial Medicine Frontier Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA. Outside of her role as a GCA, Natalie volunteered as a Reading Coach through Achieve Now where she provided weekly tutoring sessions to a second-grade student on the fundamentals of reading, phonics, and spelling. She also volunteered as a Crisis Counselor Volunteer through Crisis Text Line.

In her free time, Natalie enjoys cooking, traveling, listening to live music (especially country music), exploring nature, trying new restaurants, and spending time with friends and family.


Hailey Connell, originally from San Antonio, Texas, graduated from Rhodes College in 2024 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Health Equity. During her undergraduate years, Hailey engaged in social psychology research and served on the executive board of The Bridge, a campus-based non-profit. As a Rhodes Student Associate for the Lynne & Henry Turley Memphis Center, Hailey supported various social justice initiatives at Rhodes and in the Memphis community. Additionally, as a Health Equity Fellow, she completed a volunteer internship at CHOICES – Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, where she advocated for reproductive rights.

Over the past two summers, Hailey gained valuable experience as a genetic counseling intern at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She is excited to continue her education and advocacy efforts in Nashville. In her free time, Hailey enjoys movie nights with friends, thrifting, and baking.


Cierra Nelson is from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, home of Little League World Series baseball. She graduated from Penn State University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science degree. Her major focus of study was genetics and development with a minor in microbiology. Throughout her time at Penn State, Cierra was involved in THON committees and organizations, supervised the on-campus gyms, mentored incoming freshmen students, assisted in teaching multiple courses, and was a resident assistant.

In the years since graduation, she has worked for Vanderbilt University in biochemistry and neuroscience research as a research assistant. Cierra volunteered in the community with the Nashville Humane Association, Nashville Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Special Olympics, and Planned Parenthood. Cierra also helped run Glammadores, which is Vanderbilt’s LGBTQIA+ Employee Affinity Group. Outside of work and volunteering, Cierra participates in various recreational sports leagues, enjoys reading, playing board games with friends, and going to concerts.


Nikol Nikolova graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2023 with a Bachelor of Arts in Medicine, Health, and Society. As an undergraduate, she held a research position in special education, focusing on language and literacy learning for children with complex communication needs. She also served as a course assistant for an undergraduate class and as a peer mentor in Vanderbilt’s Next Steps program.

After graduation, Nikol worked as a rheumatology research assistant at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and joined ConnectMyVariant as a Family Outreach Navigator. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and traveling.


Emily Spector, from Columbus, Ohio, graduated First Honors from the University of Georgia in 2024 with a Bachelor of Science in Genetics and a minor in Health Policy and Management. At UGA, she studied the epigenetic regulation of heparan sulfate biosynthesis. During summers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Center for Gene Therapy she modeled rare neurodegenerative diseases using direct patient fibroblast to neuron conversion. Further, as a research assistant for Geisinger and the Clinical Genome Resource she recalibrated scoring metrics for Copy Number Variant classification in preparation for forthcoming updates to ACMG/CAP/AMP/ClinGen Guidelines and presented this top-rated work at ACMG, 2024.

Beyond her passion for research, Emily served as president of the UGA Genetics club, volunteers for an OhioHealth pregnancy and infant loss support group and continues to lead her 11-year-old non-profit, the Read to Succeed Foundation, which has distributed over 190,000 books to families in need in Columbus, OH. In her free time, Emily loves practicing yoga, taking nature walks, and reading.