Ghanaim 1Elena Ghanaim

Major: Genetics
Minor: Psychology and Philosophy
Genetic Counseling Certificate

Graduation Year: 2015

How did you decide on your major?

I first became interested in the field of genetics in high school during an elective biology course dedicated to the topic. I was especially interested in the societal and ethical implications of genetics—on the one hand, the massive potential for genetics to help diagnose and precisely treat disease, but on the other side, questions about eugenics, unintended or unforeseen consequences of genetic technologies, etc. Before arriving at Rutgers, I knew that I would major in Genetics.

What did you like most about it?

I enjoyed taking smaller sized classes and especially the electives such as those about evolutionary genetics. Most of all, I treasure the time I spent in the lab. I think this gave me a fantastic perspective on basic science.

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

I am a Policy Analyst at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI/NIH). I synthesize information from multiple sources to understand and predict the implications of new policies, with a focus on genomic data sharing. I love that I sit at the intersection of science, policy,media,and law.

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

I applied for and was accepted to the post-baccalaureate research (IRTA) fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I worked in a Drosophila lab for two years at the National Institute for Child Health and Development(NICHD). Like at Rutgers, I worked as a genetics researcher.

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

After my IRTA fellowship,I returned to school. I enrolled in the master’s program in Bioethics and Science Policy at Duke University. As part of the program, I interned in the Division of Policy, Communications, and Education at NHGRI. This opportunity helped me to transition into the position I currently hold at the NIH.

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

I learned and gained so much from working in Dr. Schindler’s lab at Rutgers. I learned reading, writing, and critical thinking skills and my experience in the lab helped me to get my first position at the NIH. My lab experience still helps me today as I navigate the world of science policy as I am able to relate and understand the NIH intramural and extramural investigators that I work with.

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

Don’t let ‘failures’set you back. Follow your interests, find good mentors, and always work hard!

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