Month: January 2017

Kira Dineen – Naturally Today

Diagnostic genetic sciences major Kira Dineen is a master podcaster who has a weekly WHUS radio show called DNA Today. For four years, Dineen, a Brookfield resident and seventh semester senior, has talked about exploring the field of genetics through this show and a related website. Here is what she said about her experiences as a CAHNR allied health student.

What attracted you to UConn? I liked the fact that it was a big school. Because I went to a relatively small high school, I was excited to be part of a larger community.

At about the same time I was selecting a college, Jackson Laboratories was building a facility on UConn Health’s campus in Farmington, Connecticut. I thought that attending UConn might offer me more connections to the company and its prominence in the field of genetics and cancer research.

What is your major, and why did you choose it? I am a diagnostic genetic sciences major. When I started at UConn, I was majoring in molecular and cell biology until someone told me there was a program for genetics. Then, I met Dr. Judy Brown, who is now the director of the program. She introduced me to the fields of cytogenetics and molecular diagnostics, which are the two concentrations in the program.

My high school biology class introduced me to genetics with the study of pedigrees and Punnett squares. I am excited about how fast the industry changes and the possibility of more discoveries within my lifetime.

Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? My radio show, DNA Today, has been a great learning experience for me. I interview researchers, professors, genetic counselors and patient advocates. The show develops my teaching and broadcasting skills and allows me network with professionals while learning about their careers.

The show has solidified my goal to enter the rapidly expanding genetic counseling field. These healthcare professionals have specialized graduate degrees, and they help translate genetic information to patients and doctors.

It is important to get the public, especially kids, involved and excited about the world of science. I watched Bill Nye and The Magic School Bus when I was younger, and it really intrigued me. I want to ignite that same passion in other people.

Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. I started working for the digital health company, My Gene Counsel, as an intern in sophomore year, and, now, I am the communications lead. After President and CEO Ellen Matloff was a guest on the show, she asked me to work for her. It has been a thrill to contribute to this young company. My role immerses me in many aspects of the field of genetic counseling, writing and social media management.

In addition, I am doing an independent study to design an undergraduate introductory course for genetic counseling. I hope that the class will be offered soon as an online class that exposes students to counseling skills and varying subfields.

What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? I noticed that it takes me longer to do my studying than it does my peers. It is a challenge balancing jobs, the radio show, studies and friends, but I have adjusted over the years.

When do you expect to graduate? What then? In January, I start a six-month internship at a cytogenetics lab, AmeriPath in Shelton, Connecticut. I graduate in May 2017. I’ll take a gap year and work in a cytogenetics lab or possibly in a healthcare communications role. I definitely plan to continue DNA Today. As for the future, I would like to go to graduate school for genetic counseling.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? My favorite interview on my show was with the descendants of Henrietta Lacks. It was a starstruck moment for me because I know how important their grandmother’s cells (HeLa cells) are to science. The following August, I featured the interview in an article on the Jackson Laboratory blog in celebration of her birthday.

If you are interested in genetics, please check out DNA Today and tune in to WHUS 91.7FM on Fridays at 10:30 AM. And, if you work in the field of genetics, please contact me. I am always looking for new guests.

By Marlese Lessing  

Lauren Danner (’97)

Lauren Tanner

College alumna Lauren Danner was named Connecticut Teacher of the Year for 2017. After working for ten years as a research scientist, she found her calling as a teacher. She now shares her passion for science with high school students in North Branford, Connecticut. Here is what she said in an interview.

What class was most useful to you? 
“Once I began taking classes within my major during the last two years, I loved all the classes. The most useful experience, and something I still use to this day, are all the techniques that I learned in my cytogenetics lab courses. All of the experiments that we did in those courses and learning how to conduct specific lab techniques and procedures were invaluable, and I still use that knowledge in my classes now as a teacher with students as they conduct lab work. Prior to teaching, I was a scientist for ten years and those courses really built a great foundation for me.”

January 4, 2017  Lauren’s Full Interview

Surprise! North Branford biology teacher chosen as Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year