Shawna was born in San Diego, California. She graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2020 with her bachelor’s degree in Human Biology. During her undergraduate studies, she volunteered in a regenerative ophthalmology laboratory at Shiley Eye Institute. Her research involved creating gene editing tools to recapitulate patient specific mutations causing Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a genetic disease that causes blindness at or soon after birth and is the leading cause of inherited childhood blindness. After graduating from UCSD, she continued pursuing her research as a laboratory technician. Shawna began modeling LCA in human stem cells by using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and differentiating three dimensional retinal organoids. Her research provided opportunities to shadow physicians and work directly with patients to study their specific mutations causing LCA. During her time at the laboratory, she also completed other projects that led her to publish multiple papers. Other than her research, Shawna has worked as an AVID tutor for high school students coming from an underserved and socioeconomically challenged area to help prepare them for college. She has also volunteered as a crisis counselor at the Crisis Text Line and at UCSD’s emergency department. Together, Shawna’s experiences have inspired her to support people who have been devastated by genetically inherited diseases. She is excited to attend UCLA’s genetic counseling program and hopes to utilize what she learns to better support underrepresented and diverse communities. In her free time, Shawna loves gardening, going to brunch, and reading.