What they're saying...
“ The Diagnostic Genetic Sciences program was a great launching pad for me, especially in the clinical practicum which builds confidence for any lab work in genetics/biotech. The Diagnostic Genetic Sciences alumni network is strong and supportive. Diagnostic Genetic Sciences aside, I felt UConn provided a good overall foundation. Relationships with professors and colleagues also played a huge part in professional development. They were great mentors, provided perspective and will help expand your network. I am currently pursuing the computational side of genetics (MS in Data Science - Bioinformatics) and would not have considered this without the cascade of events the Diagnostic Genetic Sciences program initiated. - Jen Nguyen, 2021 Diagnostic Genetic Sciences
The Perfect Career
Jen is currently working at Labcorp in Shelton, CT, as a Cytogenetic Technologist. Labcorp is a global life sciences and healthcare company that uses world-class diagnostics to improve patient care and accelerated drug development. The Labcorp in Shelton focuses specifically on hematological malignancies (blood cancers). Jen enjoys her career at Labcorp because of the direct impact on patient diagnosis. She knows she will always be helping someone every single day, even if it is in a small way.
A Day on the Job
As a cytogenetic technologist, Jen is responsible for several different tasks. Jen harvests and prepares cultures of human cells, detects chromosome and gene defects, and performs imaging and karyotyping of specimens. She also examines and analyzes normal and abnormal chromosomes using microscopes to aid in diagnosis and treatment plans, as well as report findings to physicians for diagnosis and treatment.
“I attended an Allied Health open house to learn about different specialties and had the chance to chat with professors and students of the DGS program. After having these conversations and learning that the field is rapidly growing, I was eager to study DGS. Overall, I was drawn to the DGS program because of the friendly faculty, my love for science, and the promise of a clinical internship.” - Rachel Cash, 2016 Diagnostic Genetic Sciences, Molecular Diagnostics
A Love for Science
As an Allied Health Sciences major, Rachel learned about the UConn DGS program by talking with students and professors at an open house. She decided on the program “because of the friendly faculty, my love for science, and the promise of a clinical internship.” When reflecting on her time in the UConn DGS program, Rachel highlights the importance of both the coursework and the clinical work. “Through coursework, I learned about both the history of the field and about where the field is heading. Through my internship, I learned how to work in a laboratory.”
Rachel currently works as a Molecular Technologist at Baystate Health in Holyoke, Massachusetts. She uses multiple platforms to extract, test, analyze, and report patient samples for virology, oncology, and genetic testing. She performs lab maintenance, ensures compliance with the College of American Pathologists, and serves as a Practicum Coordinator for students working in the lab - including UConn DGS students. Rachel has also played an important role in the COVID-19 pandemic, as she was heavily involved in validating the SARS-CoV2 assay.
Multiple Avenues to Learn and Grow
Rachel believes the combination of coursework and clinical experience helped her seamlessly transition into a laboratory environment. “The DGS program includes coursework that helps establish a comprehensive understanding of methods and techniques. The molecular laboratory course was critical and very valuable because it introduced me to a variety of molecular techniques that I use every day.”
She also acknowledges that her internship built on her coursework by providing more than just knowledge of laboratory techniques - it also taught her how to share space and work with others. “I was able to apply this knowledge and strengthen my laboratory skills in my clinical internship. The internship was crucial to my understanding of laboratory methods and workflow.”
When asked if she would recommend the DGS program to students, Rachel sums it up nicely: “I would recommend the DGS program because the coursework establishes a great foundation of laboratory techniques with the chance to further develop these skills during a clinical rotation.”
Professional Confidence in a Changing Environment
Rachel also says her clinical internship was her favorite experience in the UConn DGS program. She says working at Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena, Montana “allowed me to learn about molecular techniques and laboratory workflow, understand the field of medical genetics, and develop professional confidence.”
In the ever-changing and quickly growing field of molecular diagnostics, Rachel encourages others to keep learning. “My eagerness to learn has allowed me to hold major roles in validations of new instruments and tests.” The UConn DGS program provides a solid foundation for continued learning and growth.