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Alumna Profile: Amanda Gerard

BA biological sciences
and psychology ’15

Amanda GerardWhy did you study biology?
My interest in biology developed in high school science classes.
I was fascinated by many aspects of the field, but the AP biology unit about genetics particularly interested me. I was not set on a specific career path when I started my undergraduate coursework, but I knew biology interested me and I explored it further. I discovered my current field of genetic counseling through online research and some biology courses.

Highlights of your undergraduate experience?
My courses helped determine my interests and what I wanted from my future career. The variety of courses available through the biology department allowed me to learn about many different specialties in the field. Once I decided on genetic counseling as a career, I took prerequisite courses for graduate school and participated in activities to strengthen my applications. I was also a psychology major, a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, a member of the Ole Miss Band, and a frequent visitor of Big Bad Breakfast.

Discuss your path since graduation and current career goals.
I applied to genetic counseling programs during the fall of my senior year. Shortly after graduating, I started a master’s degree program in genetic counseling at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. After receiving a master’s degree two years later, I accepted a position as a genetic counselor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. I primarily work with pediatric patients in the genetics clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital. I see patients, contribute to research in the genetics field, and train new genetic counselors as a supervisor for the Baylor College of Medicine Genetic Counseling Program. My job is immensely enjoyable and rewarding, and I hope to continue contributing to this unique and growing field of science in the future.

Advice for biology majors?
Make the most of your time as an undergraduate to explore your interests! The department has a diverse offering of biology courses, and I enjoyed taking classes exploring different aspects of the field. I appreciated having an opportunity to learn about other topics in biology that interested me before progressing to more specialized coursework in graduate school.

Find opportunities to gain exposure in areas of interest outside the traditional classroom setting. I shadowed genetic counselors prior to applying to graduate programs—which strengthened my applications and helped me feel confident that this was the right field for me. Many professionals in biology-related settings are happy to welcome visitors or to answer questions, and the biology department faculty and alumni provide great connections to help set up opportunities.