First year students


Suzy Cahn ( grew up in Southern Maryland and graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2017 with a B.S. in Biology. During her time at St. Mary’s, she worked as a lab assistant for five classes, which led her to pursue biology education research. This research focused on the impact of Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique quizzes on student performance in undergraduate introductory biology, which was assessed by analyzing quiz and exam results and conducting a student survey. She is presenting this research at national biology education meetings this summer. Suzy also completed a senior thesis which reviewed the current use of genomic sequencing for reproductive decision making. By completing this research and shadowing genetic counselors in neurology, breast cancer, pediatrics, and general genetics, she gained a broader perspective of the changing roles of genetic counselors. Outside of the classroom, Suzy’s advocacy work through the SMCM Sexual Misconduct Advocacy and Resource Team and the Calvert County Crisis Intervention Center gave her the opportunity to respond to hotline calls and provide emotional support for students and families dealing with issues of power-based violence, and she hopes to continue volunteering for similar organizations in the future. During her summers, Suzy has loved working for Melwood Recreation Center, a facility for children and adults with varying abilities which includes a fully inclusive camp and an assisted travel program. Suzy spends her free time cooking, considering the merits of different dog breeds, listening to podcasts, and going to concerts.

Casola Virginia Casola ( is from Wayland, Massachusetts and graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a B.S. in Biology/Biotechnology and a minor in Chemistry.  While at WPI, Virginia was a Peer Learning Assistant for the genetics class and investigated the regulation of two insulin-like genes in C. elegans as part of her Major Qualifying Project.  With a science-rich undergraduate background and a growing interest in genetic counseling, Virginia sought to gain additional experiences in counseling.  She received a Graduate Certificate in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University and volunteered at a suicide prevention crisis center in Boston, which she found to be particularly rewarding.  She valued being able to be the listening ear when callers needed it the most.  Virginia has also volunteered as a Cancer Resource Volunteer for the American Cancer Society.  In this position, she reached out to patients undergoing chemotherapy and provided them with information and resources they could benefit from.  Virginia worked as a Quality Control Technician at Shire before starting at Emory University.  Virginia is excited to begin life in Atlanta and is looking forward to exploring nearby hiking trails, golf courses, and restaurants!

Olivia Juarez ( is from Houston, Texas, where she worked as a billing and coding manager for an OBGyn clinic. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2013 with a B.S. in Bioenvironmental Science. There she gained an interest in Genetic Counseling as an intern in a pathogenesis lab studying the effects of lipoxygenase genes. After her work was published, a family member and physician introduced her to genetic counselors and she fell in love with the profession. She moved to Houston to shadow in the Texas Medical Center and obtain her M.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Houston in 2016. She has primarily volunteered with pregnancy outreach centers providing resources for women in crisis, and she has worked with Crisis Text Line as a counselor for teens and young adults struggling with thoughts of suicide, anxiety and depression. Outside of studying, she enjoys reading about business and finance, bible studies, exercising, and hanging out with her husband and her dog.

Kushary Tina Kushary ( grew up in Voorhees, NJ. She graduated in 2016 with a B.S. degree in genetics from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. While at Rutgers, Tina was actively involved in Greek life, club soccer, and various volunteer organizations. Her involvement with Rutgers Dance Marathon and RU4KIDS along with a lecture about the future of genetics sparked her initial interest in genetic counseling. From there, Tina was accepted into the Rutgers' Genetic Counseling Certificate Program where she spent time shadowing and learning from pediatric and cancer genetic counselors at Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ solidifying her choice to pursue the genetic counseling career path. In addition to studying genetics and her extracurricular activities, Tina worked as a statistics/biology tutor and a medical scribe during her undergraduate years. After graduation, Tina spent a year teaching preschool, interning at the Penn Medicine/Virtua Cancer genetics office, and shadowing in various departments at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She also volunteered at a domestic violence shelter and Crisis Text Line throughout the year allowing her to learn and utilize her counseling skills. In her spare time, Tina enjoys reading and running along with playing and watching sports specifically soccer, tennis, and football. As someone who has never moved out of New Jersey, she is more than thrilled to be at Emory and looks forward to exploring Atlanta!
Leonard Chelsea Leonard ( grew up in Singapore and graduated from Emory University in 2014 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and a minor in Ethics. After graduation, Chelsea managed a clinical neuroscience laboratory--the TReAD Lab--for 3 years. The research in this lab focuses on how abnormalities in the neural circuitry underlying decision-making relate to and manifest as core symptoms in affective disorders, like major depressive disorder. While in this lab, she co-authored several papers in journals including Molecular Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine. In addition to this work, Chelsea worked as a research assistant for the B-RST Referral Study at Emory. Through this role, she spoke with patients at potentially higher risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer after women completed a short survey on personal and family history at breast imaging clinics around Emory. Chelsea's favorite activities including baking, decorating, and hanging out with her shih-poo Oliver!
Loucopoulos Georgia Loucopoulos ( grew up in Madison, Connecticut. She graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2015 with a B.S. in Biology. Her heart had been set on genetic counseling since freshman year of high school, when she read about it in her biology textbook. To learn more about the field, she observed genetic counseling in multiple settings including prenatal, cancer, clinical, and a Huntington’s disease clinic. In the two years following graduation, Georgia interned at the Smilow Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program at Yale New Haven Hospital. She created and updated pedigrees on their online database, and arranged the pedigree presentations for each weekly case conference. At the same time, Georgia also worked in a pharmacology lab at Yale Medical School studying autoimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL). Using gene amplification and sequencing techniques, she bred and genotyped over 400 mice with the goal of creating a strain of mice that would benefit from therapeutics. Her work has granted her authorship on a paper that is currently pending. Georgia also volunteered for three years at the bereavement department at the Connecticut Hospice. For fun, Georgia enjoys hanging out with friends, writing, watching YouTube videos, and spending time outdoors.

Merlene Peter ( grew up in Bangalore, India. She has completed her Bachelor in Technology Degree from SRM University, Chennai in Genetic Engineering. As a part of her under graduation project, she worked at the Harvard Institute of Medicine under the supervision of Dr. Anna Krichevsky on the effects of miR-10b on glioblastoma and earned authorship on the paper published in EMBO. Her interest in Genetic Counseling sparked when she joined Centre for Human Genetics(CHG), Bangalore for an observership during her third year of under graduation. She continued to work at CHG for almost two years under the guidance of Dr. Meenakshi Bhat after she graduated. She mainly worked with paediatric and prenatal genetics. During this time, she presented papers on Mucolipidosis and Phenylketonuria at National Conferences which were awarded the best posters of the conference. The different challenges that she encountered while speaking to the patients urged her to pursue her Post-Graduate Diploma in Counseling Psychology from Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore. Her passion for communication and her love for genetics has led her to choose the field of genetic counselling. During her free time, Merlene loves to sing, listen to music and read mystery novels.


Matthew Walsh ( grew up in Long Island, New York. He graduated in 2014 from the State University of New York at Binghamton with a BS in Biological Anthropology. During his time at Binghamton, Matthew interned at the Laboratory of Evolutionary Anthropology and Health, where first participated in genetics research. Following graduation, he began volunteering for advocacy groups including a local crisis center and a group called PPMD, who is dedicated to fighting Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy (DBMD). His volunteer work eventually led to a full-time position as Community Engagement Coordinator working closely with genetic counselors on the national Duchenne and Becker Patient Registry, called DuchenneConnect. Matthew’s work with the Duchenne community introduced him to the advocacy side of genetics. His experience allowed him to communicate with parents about their child’s genetic information and potential mutation-specific therapies in the pipeline. In his free time, Matthew enjoys learning about social justice, exercising, and cooking vegan cuisine. He is excited to begin his genetic counseling training at Emory!
Westfall Ellie Westfall ( grew up overseas but has lived in Virginia for the past nine years. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Public Health in 2017. She became interested in genetic counseling the summer before she started undergraduate classes, when she read a book about gene therapy. While at William and Mary, she worked in a cellular and genetic analysis lab for a semester. Ellie volunteered with Grace Hospice Williamsburg, where she learned about patient care and gained a firsthand understanding of the impact a chronic disease has on the day-to-day lives of patients and their families. She also interned with INOVA Hospital’s cancer genetics clinic, where she learned how to draw patient pedigrees and gained exposure to various aspects of INOVA’s clinical and research genetics programs. During her time at William and Mary, Ellie worked as a fitness instructor, teaching Body Pump. Outside of school and work, Ellie enjoys running, traveling, and hanging out with friends and family.

Mike Zinsmeister grew up in Akron, Ohio. He graduated from the University of Akron in 2014 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. During his time at the University of Akron he participated in laboratory research under the mentorship of Dr. Matthew Shawkey studying the morphology and chemical composition of hair-like fibers from patients with Morgellon’s Disease. Additionally, he was employed as a tutor for general sciences and mathematics. Mike learned about genetic counseling early on in college, however, life circumstances lead him to pursue the field later on.  After graduating, Mike was hired as a full-time confirmation chemist in a drug testing facility where he performed Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISA) and solid phase extraction techniques on oral fluid and hair samples followed by quantitative analysis using Liquid Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry. Outside of his time in the lab, he volunteered as a crisis counselor for Crisis Textline and was involved as a volunteer counselor for Akron Pregnancy Services where he provided family counseling services related to pregnancy, parenting, and non-parenting options. Mike’s interest in genetic counseling grew when he shadowed genetic counselors from the department of human genetics at the Cleveland Clinic, rotating in specialties like general genetics, cardiovascular genetics, and cancer genetics. After his shadowing experiences at the Cleveland Clinic, Mike continued his involvement in the department of human genetics as a study coordinator for a large medical database project focused on analyzing genetic counseling referral rates throughout the Cleveland Healthcare System for patients diagnosed with a hereditary cancer syndrome. In his free time, Mike enjoys playing guitar, video games, reading, and Ultimate.