Meet our Students

Ravijot Kaur Aujla (Spring 2022 - ) graduated from the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Punjab-India, with a Bachelor's degree in Medicine and Surgery. During this time, she became interested in precision medicine, completed a 1-year clinical rotation internship, and co-authored a review article on the role of Inotuzumab Ozogamicin in hematologic malignancies. With her pursuit to better understand the human genome and genetics in the development of therapeutics, she applied to the Professional Science Masters program in Health Care Genetics. Ravi has been involved with various community services including Vitiligo awareness, AIDS awareness marathon run, and polio eradication program. She likes to dance and cook in her leisure time and loves staying close to nature.

Michele Hazzam (Spring 2022 - ) graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomolecular Science. She works full-time as an ASCP-licensed Medical Laboratory Scientist at UConn Health and is a dog mom to three puppies. Michele developed an interest in healthcare genetics from her educational background and her current position in the clinical laboratory. She is fascinated by clinical science and is excited to correlate cases seen in the clinical laboratory with her graduate studies in the Health Care Genetics PSM program. Michele's favorite quote, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know” (Albert Einstein), sums up life as a scientist and her desire to be a lifelong student.

Kristi Herlth (Fall 2021 - ) graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with her Bachelor's in Biochemistry. She was lucky enough to get recruited in May 2020 to work at The Jackson Laboratory in their CLIA Lab as a Clinical Accessioning Technician, helping with the testing of COVID-19 samples. After 3 months, Kristi was promoted to the role of Genomic Technologist. She transitioned to an oncology specialty, where she performs bench testing duties for clinical sample processing. Her responsibilities include sample accessioning, library preparation for hybrid capture panels, library prep for whole transcriptome RNAseq, and utilization of Illumina NextSeqs and NovaSeq. Kristi also processes varying levels of research/development projects such as PDX STR analysis, and the development of future clinical assays like methylation arrays. Outside of work, Kristi loves going on hikes and visiting her parents in Florida! She learned about this program through her amazing co-workers and supervisors from The Jackson Laboratory. She can’t wait to see where this program takes her!

Valerie Kadysheva (Fall 2021 - ) graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management from UConn. As someone who was always interested in personalized healthcare, Valerie began looking into the field of genetics/genomics. To start off her experience, she became a part of UConn's 1-year Clinical Genetics and Genomics Graduate Certificate online program. She loved researching and presenting on different genetic conditions as well as learning about patient perspectives such as the emphasis on diagnostic odysseys. Valerie looks forward to starting classes this fall and hopes to pursue a career path in bioinformatics. As of now, she is working at Danbury Hospital's lab as a specimen processor. In her free time, Valerie enjoys going on nature walks and exercising.
Jessica Raucci (Fall 2021 - ) graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Studies. As part of her undergraduate training, she earned certifications in Screening in Public Health Practice, Patient Rights and Advocacy, and Human Subject Research. Since graduation, she has worked in a variety of settings in health, law, and medicine. Jessica currently works as an Andrologist for Park Avenue Fertility where she assists the laboratory with complex fertility treatments. Jessica's long-term goal is to obtain her Ph.D. in Genetics and become a Geneticist. Outside of the classroom and workplace, she enjoys writing fantasy novels, learning Arabic, and traveling around the world.

Kimberly Toth (Fall 2021 - ) graduated from UConn in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Sciences. During this time, she completed an internship at UConn Health Center under Dr. Jessica Costa in Dr. Andrew Arnold’s lab, where they used FISH to examine the copy number rearrangements of Cyclin D1 in mouse parathyroid adenomas. She also took a lot of coursework focusing on cytogenetic lab techniques. Most recently, she has completed the graduate certificate in Clinical Genetics and Genomics from UConn which served as her motivation to pursue a master’s degree in Health Care Genetics. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, and has a small side business of walking dogs through the Rover app. Professionally she is considering a career in academia or the possibility of pursuing a medical degree with a focus in reproductive medicine.

Ally Voelker (Fall 2021 - ) graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree from Davidson College in 2021. At Davidson, Ally worked with Dr. Karen Hales on the genetics of mitochondrial shaping in fruit flies. Ally worked as a resident advisor for the College, which stimulated her interest in clinical genetics research. Ally was also an active member of Davidson’s all soprano-alto acapella group, where she served as the president and oversaw the beginnings of the group’s eighth CD. She learned about the Health Care Genetics Program through an undergraduate friend at UConn and was drawn to the possibility of indulging her academic and personal interests in clinical health care research. 

Kimberly Joseph (Fall 2021 - ) is leaning into learning after raising four children and mastering volunteerism. A recent graduate of the Clinical Genetics and Genomics Program at UConn, she is excited to now be a part of the PSM Health Care Genetics cohort. Kim has twenty years of community service in the international exchange student arena and is a certified personal trainer for special populations. Her former employment includes Ernst & Young (audit), Progressive Insurance (internal control), Apple Inc. (genius), Cuyahoga Community College (adjunct faculty), and Scottstbridge Trading Company (owner). She is a Board member of the In Moton Parkinson’s Clinic and holds the Treasurer position for the Orange City School PTA. Kim's favorite quote is "Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and share in friendship."

Gillian McNeil (Summer 2021 - ) graduated from UConn in 2020 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Molecular and Cell Biology with a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. As an undergraduate, she worked as a student research assistant for Dr. Daniel Bolnick in the EEB Department. Her independent study project investigated whether signatures of genetic divergence develop in parapatric populations of stickleback over short time scales as a result of a physical barrier to gene flow in nature. Upon graduating, Gillian continued to pursue her interest in research by joining Dr. Jianjun Sun as a laboratory technician. During her time in the Sun lab, she tested the contraceptive efficacy of non-hormonal drug compounds in vitro using the Drosophila melanogaster model. In 2021, Gillian completed UConn’s graduate certificate program in Clinical Genetics and Genomics prior to being accepted into the Health Care Genetics program. Gillian is a member of the New England Regional Genetics Group (NERGG) Board of Directors and was appointed as Secretary to the Executive Committee. During her two-year term, she will promote NERGG’s mission to increase awareness and access to genetic services for patients and families impacted by genetic conditions. Gillian recently joined the Institute for Systems Genomics as a Student Administrative Specialist and is excited to pursue opportunities in genetics education and outreach as a Genome Ambassador.
Ashley Thammavongsa
Ashley Thammavongsa (Spring 2021 - ) graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a bachelor's in Biological Sciences and a minor in chemistry. Go owls! Ashley is currently working as a research assistant in Dr. Ching Lau's lab at The Jackson Laboratory. Ashley is working alongside her mentor, Dr. Min Tang-Schomer, and they're investigating the upregulation in gene expression of ion channels in Medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer in children. In her free time, Ashley enjoys biking and running the Farmington trail, reading non-fiction books about psychology, spending time with her cats, friends, and family, and blogging about her path to becoming a physician. She's excited to start her graduate education in health care genetics. Since working at JAX, she has witnessed the importance of performing genetic testing on rare pediatric brain and bone cancers. She emphasizes the difference it makes to look at the genetic evidence of poorly understood cancers to better implement a treatment plan that will benefit children.
Lucy
Lucy Owusu (Spring 2021 - ) graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Central Connecticut State University. After graduating in 2017, she took on different job roles from Amnesty (maintaining floor health and robotics) to a learning ambassador (training new employees in various jobs roles) at the Amazon fulfillment center for two years. During her undergraduate years, she interned at the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering, Dr. Cato T. Laurencin’s lab participating in ongoing research focused on developing injectable hyaluronic acid hydrogels for knee joint regeneration. Also, Lucy has been an active volunteer and trainer at Hartford Hospital since 2016. She started as a mobility volunteer for the Physical Therapy Department to being the Nursing unit volunteer at the Women’s Health Center. Lucy applied for the Health Care Genetics program because she wanted to gain extensive professional knowledge in genetics, how it affects our health and wellness, improve her laboratory skills, and hopefully, find a career in medicine.
Christianne Senechal  (Fall 2020 - )  Chrissy graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2018. She developed an interest in the medical sciences during her earlier studies and hopes to pursue a career as a physician. Toward this goal, Christianne has been a patient volunteer at Yale New Haven Hospital and completed extensive physician shadowing. Chrissy was nominated to be a Merit Scholar in the Atlantis Fellowship program which afforded her the opportunity to become immersed in global medicine during the summer of 2019 and to earn >60 AAMC complaint physician shadowing hours at public and private hospitals in beautiful Larissa, Greece. Chrissy started her job as a paraprofessional given her interest in pediatric medicine and has been developing her skills working with children who have special needs ranging from physical and/or cognitive disabilities to behavioral disorders. She engages with the childrens' psychologists and physical, occupational, and speech therapists on a regular basis, further solidifying her passion for a career working with this vulnerable population. Christianne decided to apply to the Health Care Genetics program at UConn before applying to medical school because through undergraduate research under the mentorship of Dr. Amy Groth, Chrissy had gained an appreciation for the fundamental role that genetics plays in health, disease, and medicine. Chrissy classified the function of cancer-linked genes using RNAi technology and human orthologs in the genetic model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. We wonder what research Chrissy will get into next?!
Gabriel Salles (Fall 2020 - ) is returning to UConn after earning his bachelor's degree in Molecular and Cell Biology in 2018 and working as a laboratory technician for Advanced Grow Labs in W. Haven, CT. Gabe's job at AGL provided him with extensive experience with Waters, IES and APEKs extraction systems, filtration systems and other methods for the high yield and quality of the pharmaceutical product.  As a Brazil native, Gabe's barbeque cooking is purportedly quite good. Gabe is also an avid hiker and mountain climber, now having completed about 9% of the Appalachian trail, it is a goal to complete the entire trail before age 30.  Gabe was reminded of his interest in the world of genetics after a 23&Me kit was received at his home.  He decided now was the time to pursue his scientific interests and gain the communication and leadership experience for advancement in his career. Toward that goal, Gabe completed the summer 2020 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Tomorrow’s Leaders College Program. Gabe was hired as a student technologist in late August 2020 onto the UConn COVID19 screening ramp-up team, a co-sponsored effort by the Institute for Systems Genomics and the Microbial Analysis Resources and Services (MARS) facility.  He can fill 1000 tubes with sterile water in 1.5 hours, extract RNA from wastewater, and... no, he cannot leap buildings in a single bound, but he is learning quite a number of new lab techniques under the mentorship of Drs. Kendra Maas and Rachel O'Neill.
Christopher M. Grant (Fall 2020 - ) earned his bachelor's degree in Kinesiology and Biological Sciences from the University of La Verne.  A Californian college student, Chris was an active member of the swimming, diving, and water polo teams.  Chris worked two years for Mobile Med, Inc., a hospital and healthcare company, as a surgical laser technician in Rancho Cucamonga, CA before his move east to CT in 2017.  Chris's next job was in veterinary care as an emergency room technician and for the two years prior to his start in the Health Care Genetics program, he was a medical laboratory technician at IDEXX in N. Grafton, MA.  Chris was responsible for using microscopy, ELISAs, and both manual and automated sampling methods to identify pathogenic parasite species in the BSL-2 laboratory at IDEXX.  Chris has been a long-time leader in his community, a census volunteer, and one of three Health Care Genetics graduate students to complete the 2020 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Tomorrow’s Leaders College Program. In 2020-2021, Chris worked with a team in the ISG and MARS to research and bring COVID19 screening to the UConn campus. He is now working as an Associate Scientist Level II at Biohaven Pharmaceuticals.

Melissa Soucy (Spring 2019 - ).  A Diagnostic Genetic Sciences program graduate of UConn, Melissa is ASCP certified in Diagnostic Molecular Sciences and has been working at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, CT as Clinical Genomics Technologist II performing molecular and NGS testing using the Actionseq and Fusionseq assays. Prior to starting at Jackson Labs, Melissa performed BCR/ABL testing using the Asuragen qRT-BCR/ABL assay and fragment analysis at BioReference Labs.  Melissa Soucy joined the Health Care Genetics program on a part-time basis to earn her master's degree, hone her professional development skills, and keep on point with the rapidly changing and exciting fields of genetics and diagnostics. Email Melissa

Divakar Ahuja (Fall 2017 - ) graduated with a bachelor's degree in neuroscience from the University of Vermont. Divakar is employed full-time at Genesys Diagnostics, Inc, a CT-based laboratory that provides a full range of clinical cytogenetic and molecular diagnostic services to private physicians, hospitals, and laboratories throughout the United States and internationally. Divakar was a lab supervisor when he started in the Health Care Genetics program, but in January of 2019 stepped up to serve as the company's Chief Operating Financial Officer. Aside from fiscal responsibilities, Divakar leads teams in training and provides technical supervision of staff, oversees CLIA and CAP regulatory requirements, new client setup, and test development and validations.