Student Profiles

Nadia Dingelstad

Cohort of 2023

Hello! My name is Nadia Dingelstad and I am from West Montrose, Ontario. I graduated from the University of Waterloo’s co-operative education program in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Honours Biology and a specialization in molecular genetics and bioinformatics.

Throughout my time in the co-operative education program, I had the opportunity to experience many different roles in healthcare. I gained research experience through the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy by using bioinformatics tools to characterize ligand binding pockets in the SARS-CoV-2 main protease. I also gained exposure to the field of genetic counselling as a Genetics Assistant at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. This position solidified my passion for genetic counselling, demonstrating a way to combine my interest in genetics with my desire to utilize compassion in patient-centered care.

Following graduation, I continued my role as a Genetics Assistant at Sunnybrook, taking on additional responsibilities in the training of new co-op students and in the research of breast cancer screening for moderate risk genes. I also volunteered as a Support Line Responder for the CMHA Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services, enhancing my skills in communication and providing emotional support.

In my free time, I love to paint, hike, and read mystery novels! I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of the UBC Genetic Counselling 2023 cohort and am excited to continue pursing a career in genetic counselling!

Cristina Fodor

Cohort of 2023

Hello! My name is Cristina and I am from Calgary, Alberta. I completed a Bachelor of Health Sciences degree and a Master of Science in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary. I then worked as orthopaedic research coordinator for the SCRUBS research group, where I managed a national multi-centre study to understand long-term outcomes of perilunate wrist injuries.  

Although I enjoyed my research experiences, I realized that I wanted to pursue a patient-facing profession. I honed my interpersonal skills by volunteering as a crisis line responder and coach for the Distress Centre Calgary. I then cemented my passion for genetics by working with Dr. Aneal Khan and Heather Barnes at Metabolics and Genetics in Calgary (M.A.G.I.C. clinic). I was grateful for the opportunity to develop a self-report patient questionnaire for symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Working with EDS patients was incredibly rewarding and challenged me to appreciate the diverse perspectives of patients with complex needs. These experiences solidified my desire to become a genetic counsellor.  

In my spare time, I am an avid swing dancer. I like to read science fiction novels on the beach and eat way too many tortilla chips! 

Lauren Jennings

Cohort of 2023

Hello! My name is Lauren and I am from White Rock, BC. 

I graduated from UBC in 2021 with my Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Italian. After being introduced to the genetic counselling profession in my final year of my undergraduate degree, I worked as a research assistant with the GenCOUNSEL team, investigating the perceptions that teens and pre-teens have of their peers with genetic conditions. Subsequently, I worked at the UBC Clinic for Alzheimer’s Disease as the National Brain Donation and Autopsy Manager for two dementia studies where I honed my ability to speak with families about sensitive subject matters and guided informed decision making.

Alongside my studies and work, I volunteered with several organizations such as the Fraser Health Crisis Line, the UBC Centre for Accessibility and the Canucks Autism Network. Throughout these experiences, I witnessed how disabilities and conditions with genetic etiology can increase vulnerability to social discrimination and stereotypes, stemming from a lack of awareness. As a genetic counsellor, in partnership with others in my field I will aspire to help improve global understanding of genetic conditions, from the basic science to the lived experiences of the diverse families affected.

Aside from genetics, I love to work out, read and travel!

Claudia Pfeifer

Cohort of 2023

Hello! My name is Claudia Pfeifer and I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The holistic approach that genetic counselling provides in healthcare is what first drew me to the career in high school, and I am grateful and excited to be in UBC’s Cohort of 2023!

I graduated in 2023 from the University of Manitoba with an Honours Co-op BSc in Genetics with minors in psychology and chemistry. During my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to pursue genetic counselling, but also wanted to gain research experience in genetics and public health. Most recently, I completed Co-op and Federal Student Work Experience Program positions under Dr. Alberto Severini and Joanne Hiebert in the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella unit of the Viral Exanthemata and STDs section within the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). During my time at PHAC, I worked to optimize whole genome sequencing protocols of the Measles virus on the MinION platform. The impact that access to accurate genetic information could provide the WHO network through scientific communication was really meaningful for me, but I knew I wanted a client-facing role where I could directly be a part of the impact genetics research has on individuals.

Aside from my laboratory experience, I was involved as the Science Co-op Student Ambassador at the University of Manitoba where I worked to improve the Co-op experience for my peers. My work as an advocate was further strengthened in my role as a volunteer crisis line counsellor with Klinic Community Health, where I provided support for callers over crisis and information phone lines.

In my free time, I love to go to concerts, watch movies, and spend time outdoors and am excited . I am really excited to be learning and growing in the Genetic Counselling Program at UBC!

Madison Plante

Cohort of 2023

My name is Madison, and I was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario. Prior to moving to Vancouver, I had lived in Windsor my entire life. I completed my BSc in Biology at the University of Windsor, where I graduated in 2021. I discovered genetic counselling toward the end of my undergraduate degree, after returning from an exchange semester in New Zealand. I was provided the opportunity to take an advanced genetics course during my time there; this class allowed me to expand my knowledge on both the etiology of various genetic conditions, and the relevance of this information in patients’ lives and experiences. Once inspired to pursue genetic counselling, I engaged in my community as an Outreach Worker for Family Services Windsor-Essex following graduation, where I worked closely with individuals experiencing homelessness. I assisted clients in obtaining and maintaining affordable housing, as well as accessing mental health services. I also spent over one year volunteering for Crisis Text Line as a Crisis Responder, which increased my desire to connect with others psychosocially. Other activities that have assisted me in preparing for graduate school in genetic counselling include volunteering for My Gene Counsel LLC, the Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA), the John McGivney Children’s Camp, and shadowing various cancer and prenatal genetic counsellors. I am extremely excited to have moved to such a beautiful city and cannot wait to embark on my genetic counselling journey throughout UBC’s phenomenal program.

In my free time I enjoy physical activity such as hiking, yoga, and playing tennis. I also love to read and bake new recipes!

Mikayla Poloz

Cohort of 2023

Hello! My name is Mikayla, and I am from Langley, BC. I graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Behavioural Neuroscience.  

Through UBC’s Faculty of Medicine Summer Student Research Program, I was introduced to the overall approaches used to functionally characterize variants of unknown significance associated with rare genetic disorders. My research project focused on investigating how stoploss mutations in the gene CLDN11 cause Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease – which not only deepened my understanding of genetics, but also allowed me to appreciate the complexities of genetic disorders and their impact. Throughout this time, I was also volunteering as a crisis line responder, which taught me firsthand how rewarding it can be to support and assist individuals. 

When learning about the field of genetic counselling, I realized that it intriguingly qualified as a career of both arts and science. It was an area defined by medical knowledge and research, and yet there was tremendous scope for self-expression in the form of empathetic communication and counselling. It was a facet of healthcare that combined my interests, and I am enthusiastic about leveraging my experiences to positively impact patients and their families, while also striving for equity, justice, and inclusion in genomic medicine. 

In my free time I love to read, go to the gym, and spend time with my friends and family! 

Ellie Storm

Cohort of 2023

Hello! I’m Ellie Storm and I was born and raised in Waterloo, Ontario. Through early experiences, I knew my passion was people and after discovering a love of genetics in high school, I quickly realized that genetic counselling was where I needed to be.

Before moving to Vancouver, I left my second home in Kingston, Ontario where I graduated from Queen’s University with a BSc Honours in Life Sciences. Here, I pursued research in the Department of Rehabilitation Therapy studying the perceptions of mothers of infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome, in hopes of expanding the resources available to this demographic in Kingston. This experience taught me the ins and outs of qualitative, intervention-targeted research and ultimately confirmed my passion for the psychosocial aspects of healthcare.

During this time I also had the pleasure of volunteering at Telephone Aid Line Kingston (TALK), a crisis counselling organization, where I split my time between supporting fellow volunteers as a supervisor and aiding our callers through various adversities. TALK allowed me to connect with my community on a deeper level while honing my empathetic counselling skills toward a vastly diverse population.

In my free time, I enjoy travelling, baking, and any creative outlet I can get my hands on, such as crocheting, painting, and singing. I’m ecstatic to be a part of the UBC Genetic Counselling 2023 cohort, and look forward to growing and learning over these next two years.

Shelby Thornton

Cohort of 2023

Hello! I was born and raised on Vancouver Island. I attended University of Victoria where I graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry with co-operative education. During my co-ops I investigated the efficacy of sequencing to screen for low-titre dsDNA viruses in tree fruits and developed multicolor immunohistochemistry assays for the identification of various immune cells in murine High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer models.

Moving to Vancouver after my undergrad, I joined the Molecular and Advanced Pathology Core at UBC with Dr.’s David Huntsman and Torsten Nielsen to spearhead development of their GeoMx DSP spatial transcriptomics assays, OPAL multiplex immunofluorescence technologies and HALO image analysis. Outside of school and work, I had the opportunity to volunteer with crisis line support, eating disorder recovery peer support, and Autism Spectrum Interdisciplinary Research Program with Dr. Suzanne Lewis. It was the combination of my volunteering and professional experiences that solidified my pursuit of genetic counselling.

In my free time I love to play volleyball and softball, cycle, backpack and hike, kayak and photography. I’m truly excited and eager to bring my molecular pathology background into my future career as a genetic counsellor.



Sophie Albert

Cohort of 2022

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

Cohort of 2022

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

Cohort of 2022

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

Cohort of 2022

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

Cohort of 2022

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

Cohort of 2022

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!