Brianna McDanielsMcDaniels 1

Major: Genetics
Minor: Psychology
Genetic Counseling Certificate

Graduation Year: 2016

How did you decide on your major?

I chose Genetics as my major because I was personally diagnosed with a rare disease, called Histiocytosis, at 6 weeks old. As I grew curious about what made me different, I began researching the cause of my own condition and learned that it had been linked to mutations in the BRAF oncogene. Learning this information made me feel empowered in navigating my diagnosis. Thus, I knew that I wanted to learn more about genetics and help other people in the rare disease community.

What did you like most about it?

I enjoyed the opportunity to gain hands on experience throughout the major. I was able to work in a laboratory on campus that explored the relationship between oxidative stress and DNA damage in cancer cells. I also participated in the genetic counseling certificate program, which fueled my passion for genetic counseling as a career.

McDaniels 2What is your current position, what do you, and what do you enjoy most about it?

I currently work as a cancer genetic counselor at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. I work with cancer patients who were either diagnosed with cancer at a young age or have a family history of cancer to help them determine if their cancer is caused by an inherited mutation in their DNA. I educate patients about cancer genetics, coordinate genetic testing, explain genetic testing results, and provide psychosocial support. My favorite part of my job is being able to help patients prevent future cancer diagnoses in themselves and their family members.

What was your first job after Rutgers and how did you get it?

After I graduated from Rutgers in 2016, I attended Emory University School of Medicine and obtained my Master of Medical Science degree in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling. One of the reasons I got into a graduate program directly after graduating was because I gained experience from participating in the Genetic Counseling Certificate Program on campus. Through the program, I shadowed genetic counselors for an entire semester, volunteered on a suicide hotline, and took courses well suited for genetic counseling. This gave me an advantage over other applicants when applying.

How did you move from that first job to your current position?

As I was searching for jobs, I knew I wanted to work near Rutgers, so I emailed one of my previous professors to ask if he knew of any jobs in the area. He put me into contact with one of the genetic counselors at the Cancer Institute of NJ, they interviewed me, and I was hired! It pays to maintain the connections you develop while you’re a student.

Looking back, what classes or experiences at Rutgers would you point to as contributing to your successes?

I definitely owe a lot of my success to the Genetic Counseling Certificate Program on campus. Without participating in that program, I likely would not have been able to go directly into a graduate program. I also contribute some of my success to Rutgers fostering a welcoming environment for minority students on campus. They have several programs in place (scholarships, ODASIS, etc.) to make sure minority students do not slip through the cracks.

What advice do you have for our current Arts and Sciences students?

Learn as much about different careers as you can prior to graduation. Attend outside lectures, volunteer, talk to your professors about their career paths, and try to figure out what field of work is best for your interests. Once you find something that you are passionate about, try to gain hands on experience in whatever way you can. All of these things will make you a better candidate for whatever job/ graduate program you apply to after graduation.

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