Student Profiles

Sophie Albert

Class of 2024

Hello! My name is Sophie Albert and I was born and raised in Ottawa, ON. I graduated from Concordia University in 2021 with a BSc Honours in Cell and Molecular Biology. I completed my senior thesis in a synthetic genetics lab, where I worked on yeast humanization studies — meaning to replace the yeast’s native genes with their human orthologs as a way to model and study human diseases. This experience taught me a lot about molecular genetics, but also that I have a strong desire to be more directly involved with the “human” part of human genetics. This was especially reinforced when I gained counselling and advocacy experience while volunteering with McGill’s Sexual Assault Centre and Kid’s Help Phone’s crisis text-line.

I was very lucky to have spent the year following my graduation working as a clinical research coordinator for a pilot project offering genetic counselling and testing to women diagnosed with breast cancer in Montreal, under the supervision of Dr William Foulkes. During this year, I was allowed to shadow numerous appointments with genetic counsellors and geneticists in both clinical and research settings. I loved learning about the field itself and the wide range of roles that genetic counsellors can take on in the world of patient care. All these experiences have provided me with a solid foundation that I cannot wait to build on during my training, and I am very thankful to be a part of UBC’s genetic counselling class of 2024.

Outside of my studies, I enjoy spending time outside, hiking, camping and skiing (down-hill or cross-country!), as well as reading, knitting and spending time with my cats, Stanley and Newton.

Kelvin Chang

Class of 2024

I was born and raised in Markham, Ontario and graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Honours Biology. After taking an early interest in genetics during my undergraduate studies, I pursued a wet lab research project in my fourth year, where I worked under Dr. Barbara Moffatt and studied the plant model organism Arabidopsis thaliana. My work focused on isolating a CRISPR-induced suppressor mutant through genetic screening and conducting transcriptional fusion assays to analyze key genes involved in its cell division. Following this experience, I realized that wet lab research was not my preferred career path and I wanted to pursue a career where I could apply my interest in genetics towards an active interpersonal environment. I chose genetic counselling because it is such a unique profession that combines genetics “detective” work, science communication, and psychosocial patient care.

In preparation for graduate school, I volunteered at Distress Centre Halton as a distress line responder, where my role was to support people over the phone in coping with crisis, loneliness, and emotional stress. Not only did this experience help me develop my counselling skills in a variety of situations, but it also provided me with the rewarding opportunity to advocate for client mental health. Other valuable work experiences that have led me to pursue genetic counselling include coaching at a youth basketball camp and working as a support worker for people living with mental disabilities. In my spare time, I like to play basketball, work out, watch movies, read books, and cook. I am very grateful to be in the UBC Genetic Counselling Class of 2024 and am looking forward to building towards my career as a genetic counsellor!

Mitch Hendry

Class of 2024

I was born and raised in Owen Sound, Ontario.

Being diagnosed with unilateral retinoblastoma at 3 years old introduced me to the field of medical genetics at a young age. Since I was old enough to know what a gene was, I have been fascinated with the concepts of genetics and heritability. In 2021, I graduated from the University of Western Ontario with an Honours Specialization in genetics.

While I had been interested in genetic counselling for a long time, I was intimidated by the competitive nature of admissions. After graduating from Western, I initially counted myself out from even applying to programs. However, after working in research administration and volunteering for a local crisis phone line I found I was feeling unfulfilled in both roles. In my research admin role, I wanted more freedom to pursue research that was interesting to me. In my volunteer role on the phone line, I wished I could contribute to more high-level policy change that could improve the lives of callers in meaningful ways long-term. After taking the year to gain experience and make myself a more competitive applicant, I took the plunge and applied. And I am so glad I did! 

Training as a genetic counsellor will put me in a position to succeed in my career goals. I hope to advocate for and perform patient-focused research in rare diseases, educate patients about their genetic backgrounds, and influence policy change to improve care for patients of all backgrounds.

When I am not doing things related to my studies, I like to play music, work out, listen to podcasts, and enjoy the nature in and around Vancouver!

Tessa Kolar

Class of 2024

I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. I graduated from Western University with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and pathology. During my undergraduate degree, I completed my thesis project on the molecular mechanism of the human Shu complex in DNA repair. I was also involved with various non-profit organizations on campus and discovered a love for teaching through tutoring.

Following graduation, I worked in genetics research with Dr. Robin Hayeems and I subsequently took on a position as a Genetics Assistant. The combination of these experiences enabled me to explore the profession through different lenses, and ultimately confirmed my desire to pursue genetic counselling.

In my free time, I enjoy running, biking, and listening to Taylor Swift. I am very excited to be a part of UBC’s Genetic Counselling program and to embark on this new chapter!

Yvette Kuo

Class of 2024

Hello everyone! My name is Yvette and I am from Toronto, Ontario. I graduated from McMaster University with a BSc in the Life Sciences and a minor in Psychology.

After undergrad, I pursued postgrad studies at The Michener Institute of Education at UHN, studying Genetics Technology. This program gave me the opportunity to gain hands-on experiences with advanced genetics techniques and technologies. As a certified Clinical Genetics Technologist dual-trained in both Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics, I worked in several genetics labs across Ontario conducting clinical genetic tests, analysing, and interpreting results in different genetic specialities (prenatal, neurogenetics, and cancer).

While working, I volunteered as a Peer Supporter with the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. My outreach focused on the Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) community in Toronto, facilitating difficult conversations which frequently included barriers to care, such as expressing concerns without the fear of being dismissed due to race, culture, or sexuality. My outreach experience allowed me to draw parallels to the racial health disparities that I witnessed in the field of clinical genetic testing and genomic research from my own work. These different life experiences gave me the courage to pursue genetic counselling where I hope to contribute one day to closing the disparity gap so that all patients have equal health outcomes regardless of social determinants.

Aside from my love of genetics, I love to eat, bake, and sew!

Sydney Schulz

Class of 2024

Hello! I came to BC from Portland, Oregon, where I was born and raised. I graduated from Portland State University in 2021 with a BS in Biology, Psychology, & University Honors. Through the Honors program, I was able to publish my thesis project reviewing the use of Genome-Wide Sequencing in Genetic Counselling with my advisor Dr. Kim Brown. This was a great challenge and opportunity to spend six months exploring the field and gaining insight into clinical practice, for which I am incredibly grateful.

During my undergrad, I spent three years as a volunteer for The Dougy Center for Grieving Families, working with children aged 6-12 who had experienced the death of a primary caregiver. I learned how to listen and hold space for grief from my co-facilitators and mentors within the organization, and reflect on my time with the children as the most rewarding work I’ve taken part in.

Outside of academia, I like to walk my dog along the many beaches in Vancouver, read voraciously, and enjoy live music. I look forward to taking my experience and love of learning into a career in genetic counselling!

Daniel Abd Assamad

Class of 2023

Hello, I am Daniel Assamad. I’m Syrian/Lebanese but was born and raised in a small country in the Middle East called Kuwait and then moved to Canada in 2015 to pursue my bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto (U of T) majoring in Genetics and Physiology with a minor in Psychology. Throughout my undergrad, I supplemented my studies with wet-lab research (and figured out it wasn’t for me), and leadership opportunities such as working as a Senior Residence Don (advisor) at U of T.

I then went on to do a Master of Health Science in Medical Genomics at U of T; this program provided me with robust genetics knowledge and skills including analyzing and interpreting genomic data. However, I still felt like I wanted to do more, and it was around then that I started looking more into Genetic Counselling programs. During my masters, I began to volunteer with Toronto Distress Centers as a helpline responder and started working with Dr. Robin Hayeems Lab at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. I continue to work in this role as a Clinical Project Research Assistant and I am currently assisting with multiple projects including the development of the Secondary Findings Impact Study and a patient-reported outcome measure, the P-GUIDE which captures the personal utility of genetic testing for patients/ parents.

These experiences, coupled with my fascination with the genetics of physiological processes, motivated me to pursue a Masters in Genetic Counselling. I feel very fortunate to be here and to have found a unique career that allows me to combine the things I am most passionate about!

Rebecca Candlish

Class of 2023

I was born in Oakville, ON, and moved to Kelowna, BC, when I was in middle school. Later, I attended the University of Victoria where I graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry with Co-operative Education (Co-op). During my time at UVic, I gained research experience in neurobiology, community genetics, and genomics. On one of my Co-op terms, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Laura Arbour in the UBC Community Genetics Research Program, which provided me with my first exposure to research in genetic counselling. After graduating from UVic, I returned to a neurobiology lab run by Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne, where I had completed a Co-op work term during my undergrad, to work as a research assistant for two years.

During my time as an undergrad student at UVic, I noticed that there was a lack of mentorship opportunities for science students, so I founded the UVic Women in Science Peer Mentorship Program in 2019 and led this program until 2021. I also gained experience with providing emotional support to people on the Alzheimer Society Dementia Helpline,, and the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. Through my experience on the Dementia Helpline and working as a research assistant in a neurobiology lab, I became very interested in neurodegenerative diseases and the unique struggles that patients with these diseases face. I hope to continue to work with patients and families affected by neurodegenerative disease in my career as a genetic counsellor.

I first discovered genetic counselling in my third year of my undergraduate degree through searching for careers that could combine my interest in genetics with my desire to directly connect with patients. Through my experience working with Dr. Arbour and volunteering with the genetic counsellors at the Victoria General Hospital, I became sure that I wanted to pursue genetic counselling as my future career. I applied to genetic counselling programs in 2020 and 2021, and I was incredibly excited to be accepted into UBC’s program in 2021!

Outside of school, I enjoy hiking, biking, watercolour painting, and hanging out with my cat, Olive! I hope to one day hike to Machu Picchu, as my friend and I had planned to do this pre-COVID, but for now I am planning some local hikes with my classmates!

Patricia Gombas

Class of 2023

I was born and raised in Oakville, Ontario. I graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 2015 with a BSc. Honour’s Specialization in Genetics. During my undergrad, I was a research assistant in Dr. Kathleen Hill’s lab, and volunteered for a local crisis centre phoneline. Upon learning about genetic counselling, I sought out more experiences to educate myself and immerse myself in the field.

Following graduation, I worked for a bilingual Patient Support Program that served to facilitate access to a high cost medication for thousands of Canadians. Here, I gained first-hand insight into the inequities and barriers in healthcare t

hat affect so many Canadians, and grew passionate about working to address these issues. I’m hoping to complete my directed studies in this realm, and anticipate this special interest motivating my career as a genetic counsellor one day.

In my free time, I love to spend time outdoors, some of my favourites are activities are hiking and exploring beautiful Vancouver, playing beach volleyball or camping! I also love to cook – I particularly enjoy experimenting with new recipes, or putting my own creative touch on existing recipes.

I’m very excited to be joining the UBC Genetic Counselling Class of 2023, and begin working towards an exciting career as a Genetic Counsellor!

Lauren Piers

Class of 2023

I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta and completed my Bachelor of Science with a major in biology and minor in chemistry at The King’s University. During my undergrad, I completed my senior thesis investigating the changes in the solubility and post-translational modifications of lens crystallin proteins in zebrafish in response to cataract induction. This project highlighted my passion for molecular biology and genetics. Following graduation, I conducted research on calcium signalling and cholesterol metabolism in the department of biochemistry at the University of Alberta. The bulk of my research focused on studying the calcium-binding capacity of endoplasmic reticulum proteins involved in the unfolded protein response and the implications of disrupted calcium signalling in endoplasmic reticulum stress. Later, I moved into an advocacy role where I provided academic, social, and employment support to post-secondary students with developmental disabilities through an organization called Inclusion Alberta. This work sparked my passion for disability advocacy, which is an area I hope to explore within the field of genetic counselling in addition to biochemical and neurogenetics. During the time between completing my undergrad and applying to genetic counselling, I also volunteered as a crisis responder with both Kids Help Phone and the University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre. In my free time, I enjoy exploring the outdoors, hiking, playing volleyball, and frequenting local coffee shops!

Ege Sarikaya

Class of 2023

I was born in Istanbul, Turkey and moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 8. I completed my BSc degree at Western University in London, ON with honors specialization in Genetics. I studied gene expression changes in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) for my final thesis project. I learned about genetic counselling in my final year, and I immediately connected with GCs in Southern Ontario for coffee or informal meetings to learn more about the profession.

Then I completed my MSc degree at University of Toronto in Molecular Genetics where I studied a rare neuromuscular disorder, X-linked Myotubular myopathy. During my degree I volunteered with genetic counsellors at the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre Clinic at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. I also volunteered at the Distress Centre Halton as a distress line volunteer and the Women’s Centre of Halton as a peer support volunteer. In the last year, I stayed in the neuromuscular field and worked as a research technologist and clinical research coordinator at the Sickkids Hospital in Toronto.

All these experiences led me to where I am today, and I couldn’t be happier to learn more and grow in UBC’s Genetic Counselling program. In my free time, I enjoy working out, going on long walks, hiking and trying out new coffee shops.

Jared Warden-Joseph

Class of 2023

Hi everyone! My name is Jared, and I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. I graduated from McGill University with a BSc in Anatomy and Cell Biology in 2021. I have always known that I was interested in both genetics and psychology and knew that I wanted to work in a client-facing profession. I’m extremely grateful to have found a career that is able to bridge all of these things. During my undergraduate degree, I was able to volunteer in two research labs, working to investigate the effects of a gene on the corpus callosum and also doing a scoping review on renal cell carcinoma in young adults. Both of these opportunities were extremely rewarding and valuable, allowing me to learn a great deal and gain hands-on experience. I also volunteered at McGill’s Peer Support Center which expanded my supporting skills and allowed for me to champion better mental health, one of my greatest passions. In the future, I would like to work in psychiatric and neurogenetics genetic counselling, while also doing research and advocacy in diversity, equity and inclusion in the genetics field. In my free time, I enjoy watching too many TV shows, singing and going on adventures.