Alumni Profiles in Science & Health Professions

  • Madison Miura headshotMadison Miura '20,
    MS in Genetic Counseling Candidate

    A profession at the cross-section of personalized medicine, molecular biology, psychosocial counseling, and disability advocacy, genetic counseling--much like a liberal arts college--attracts individuals with diverse interests and backgrounds. On any given day, a genetic counselor might: educate patients and physicians about the risks and benefits of genetic testing, console a grieving couple who lost a pregnancy due to a genetic anomaly, interpret lab reports for evidence of genetic disease, introduce a patient with a new genetic diagnosis to resources and support networks, present challenging cases to a room-full of colleagues, advocate on behalf of a patient for why their insurance should cover a certain test, and so much more. After graduating from Williams as a biology and sociology major, I began my training in a genetic counseling master's program because I knew the career would fuel my intellectual interests while satisfying my desire to provide compassionate care in a clinical setting. For those interested in joining the dynamic field of genetic counseling, I would recommend shadowing genetic counselors, taking advantage of the wide course offerings at Williams, and reaching out to learn more -- I look forward to connecting with you!

    Connect with me on EphLink!

  • Ryan Jacoby '09Ryan Jacoby '09, Clinical Psychologist

    What is your current role? I am a clinical psychologist in the Center for OCD and Related Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Assistant Professor in Psychology/Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. I graduated from Williams in 2009 (as a psychology major) and completed my PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016.  My current role is primarily a research position, but I do see clinic patients with OCD for a few hours per week. One of the main research questions I study is how psychological treatments work (i.e., what are the mechanisms that make them effective), so even when I’m doing research, I’m conducting assessments and therapy with clinical patients with OCD and related disorders. I also mentor research assistants and supervise trainees on internship and post-doc.

    What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey? At Williams I majored in psychology and began taking psychology courses relatively early on, taking PSYC 101 my freshman year. Highlights of my college courses at Williams were: (a) Experimentation and Statistics (I’m a huge data nerd!), (b) Psychological Disorders (which confirmed my interest in clinical psychology), (c) Clinical and Community Psychology (as part of this course we did a clinical placement and I shadowed a social worker at Conte Elementary in Pittsfield; I also met Laurie Heatherington who became my thesis advisor!), and (d) Hormones and Behavior (my empirical lab course – I loved designing my own research project).

    How does your liberal art education (including co-curricular activities) broadly inform your work? Some of my most formative experiences in Williams within psychology were outside the classroom. I was a member of Active Minds and the 1960s Scholars Program. I also began volunteering as a research assistant helping with data collection for several professors in the Psychology Department (Marlene Sandstrom and Laurie Heatherington). The summer before my senior year, I was awarded the Summer Science Research Fellowship to stay on campus and work with Laurie on her research and begin my honors thesis. I loved everything about working on my thesis (which examined anxiety and family relationships) from reading the literature, to generating hypotheses, to designing the methods, to analyzing and presenting the data. It was this experience that made me realize I wanted to pursue research and get a PhD in Clinical Psychology!

    What skills, interests, and values show up in your work? My clinical and research interests broadly focus on the nature and treatment of OCD and anxiety disorders, including specific interests in psychological mechanisms of exposure-based therapies (i.e., how these treatments work) as well as treatment augmentation strategies for improving clinical outcomes. I also am interested in improving the understanding and behavioral/psychophysiological measurement of cross-cutting psychological processes (e.g., intolerance of uncertainty, cognitive/attentional control) utilizing multi-method approaches (e.g., eye-tracking tasks, behavioral decision-making paradigms, psychophysiological measures). Thus, skills that are important in my job are being able to balance many competing demands, being detail-oriented in designing research studies and analyzing data, as well as having compassion and creativity when designing therapeutic exercises for my patients. I very much value being able to see change happen in the room for patients I work with in therapy, and also knowing that I can affect the lives of many patients I don't work with directly by improving psychological treatments through my research.

    Do you have any resources you recommend for students starting out in the field? Are there any experiences (courses, internships, research, etc.) that you advise students to explore? I highly recommend the following experiences at Williams: (1) taking advantage of the empirical lab course (and maybe even an honors thesis) to see if you like research, (2) joining the 1960s Scholars Program to get experience reading academic papers and meeting the speakers who wrote them, (3) looking into the Summer Science Research Fellowship as a paid opportunity to continue research on campus, and (4) consider a winter study independent project to pursue a special interest in the field. I wish I had taken courses in computer programming at Williams because these skills are coming up a lot in my job these days (e.g., being able to manipulate and analyze big datasets, coding experimental computer tasks).

    Connect with me on EphLink!


    Additionally, I recommend the following resources to learn more about clinical psychology (many of which are from former colleagues of mine at UNC):

    (1) “Mitch’s Uncensored Advice for Applying to Graduate School in Clinical Psychology” (Revised 2021), written by Mitch Prinstein, Professor of Psychology at UNC – Chapel Hill with all sorts of helpful and practical advice about graduate school in psychology: 

    (2) “Before You Apply to Graduate Programs in Psychology: Knowing When You’re Ready and Gaining Post-Baccalaureate Experiences”, written by Casey Calhoun (former graduate student at UNC): 

    (3) “A Student’s Perspective on Applying to Graduate School in (Clinical) Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide” by Sophie Choukas-Bradley (former graduate student at UNC): 

    (4) “The Portable Mentor: Expert Guide to a Successful Career in Psychology” by Mitch Prinstein if you want more: 

    (5) For those who are interested in a PhD in Clinical Psychology, I highly recommend pursuing a 2-year clinical research coordinator position to get more experience with research before applying. Here is a website for finding post-bacc clinical research coordinator jobs: 

    (6) For more professional development info see: