Name:  Sydnee Mcilvaine

Major: Genetics

Certificate: Genetic Counseling

Minor: Psychology

Graduation Year: 2024

How did you decide on your major?

I've actually known that I wanted to study genetics for many years before starting college! I learned about Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease, at just 10 years old and became interested in the idea of DNA and its effect on health. A few years later, I saw genetic counseling as a possible career path for those interested in genetics in a middle school biology textbook. After reading the blurb on genetic counseling, I knew this was the career I wanted to work towards, which meant first studying genetics in undergrad! I decided to come to Rutgers because they were one of a very few schools that offered genetics as an undergraduate major and have loved my time here. 

What is it about your chosen field (and the department) that appeals to you?

I love just about everything about genetics! Learning how a small change in a single gene can cause such wide-spread effects in the body fascinates me. The genetics faculty at Rutgers are experts in their field and do a great job at teaching the material as well as offering hands-on lab experience. 

As far as my future career, I love how genetic counseling combines the nerdy science aspect that we all love as genetics majors with a more compassionate counseling side. This psychosocial side of genetic counseling is great for people like me who love psychology and want to help improve not only the physical health, but mental health of those who seek genetic counseling.

Do you have a favorite class/professor within your major?

If I had to pick, my favorite genetics courses would have to be Introduction to Cancer and my Genetic Counseling Rotation course. Intro to Cancer was so interesting and I learned so much about different types of cancer. The genetic counseling rotation course that we have here at Rutgers is such a unique experience! Dr. Heiman does an amazing job at setting up future genetic counselors for success and finding us clinical rotation sites to shadow practicing genetic counselors. I was able to shadow 53 real genetic counseling appointments while taking this course, which was such an unforgettable and valuable experience. One of the funniest professors I have ever had was Dr. Christina Bergey, who taught my Evolutionary Medicine class. She truly made every lesson interesting and engaging!

What are your favorite academic experiences outside of your major?

I am the president of the newly formed Genetic Counseling Intertest Club (GCIC) here on campus. The mission of our club is to get a more diverse group of students from all majors interested in genetic counseling as a possible career!  I am also a member of the Association of Undergraduate Geneticists (AUG). Although it is not a genetics focused club, I spend most of my time with the Rutgers University Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club (RUSEPRC)! I am one of the Activities Coordinators for our club as well as a puppy raiser. This means I have a puppy with me for a year that I am training to become a future guide dog. Reed the seeing eye puppy attends many of my classes with me, goes to movies and events on and off campus, and is a great honorary genetics major! He probably knows more about DNA then most people! Raising a guide dog in training is a very rewarding experience, and I'm so proud to be a part of this club. 


  What are your plans following graduation?

Will be pursuing my Masters in Genetics at Kean University, Class of 2026!













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