Who I am
An experienced molecular biologist with keen interest in genomic integrity, a big picture concept for public health that basically includes all the molecular genetic details in cells, I was born in New York, but grew up on the West Coast of the United States, going north with each move, from CA to OR to WA. Completing my doctorate in microbiology on retroviral RNA packaging in Seattle, I have had the opportunity to live in many wonderful places, and work on many interesting things.
From worms to mice, for molecular micro- and neuro- biology studies over the course of my academic career, I, for instance, cloned an RNA-level quality control factor of cells (smg-4/Upf3) defining a new motif central for this conserved cellular quality control system, and also worked at the EPFL, helping define and modify mammalian neural circuits for sensory perception.
In about 2006, I became aware how the so many environmental factors and even things *we* choose to do can impact genomic integrity. While repair of damage does happen in cells, sometimes the end result is new mutations, that can also affect future generations. Therefore, awareness and prevention are of great interest for health. To these ends I founded the non-profit group AGiR! Action for Genomic integrity through Research! to provide information and promote research into these issues. I am also very interested in measuring amounts and effects of environmental pollutants and have worked with biosensors for arsenic and BTEX/PAH compounds in the UNIL fundamental microbiology (DMF UNIL) department. In fact, the latter experience is the reason Hackuarium came to my attention, an open public community lab, in which I have become more & more implicated over the last years...
In addition to AGiR! projects at Hackuarium, I would like to improve science communication and facilitate participatory research projects especially, and helped Hammerdirt in the Montreux Clean Beach Project with microbiological monitoring over eight weeks during two consecutive summers, with a round of sampling (without the Jazz !) in 2020 providing further statistical basis for a peer-reviewed publication.
Our urban garden project with pea plants and symbiotic bacteria also ran for its fourth year during the pandemic. (In 2022, we are still deciding, esp with a big field of peas to follow closely in the neighborhood...)
Since 2018, I was 'naturalised' as a Swiss citizen, but am still working on using more French! (désolées, ami/es francophones... ça peut arriver, avec ton aide?! :)
More information about my career path can be found in LinkedIn.
Why I love Hackuarium
The DIT-Research possibilities (Do-It-Together!) synergise at Hackuarium, and the vibrant community is amazing!
How to contact me
Email me at: rachel(at)hackuarium(dot)ch
What I have been working on at Hackuarium
The genomic integrity experiments, especially the cheek cell chip attempts for AGiR! are my personal projects, with the sustainability of our association my big goal as president.
I got into all this biohacking world through chance, however, with a biosensor course organised with founding members of Hackuarium, my big intro to open science (thanks to Jan, Sachiko and Robin).
At the end of a 6-month sabbatical after finishing a project management position at a private company, I had six weeks to travel in Australia, and met with both Sydney and Melbourne biohackers early in 2017. Since then, I have done workshops from London (with Science has no Borders), to Shenzhen (at GOSH2018), Bilbao (BBK Open Science Festival), and of course at our new coop site in Ecublens, learning all the time! I hope the two AGiR! projects at Hackuarium, the cheek cell assays for DNA damage, and the moss fauna studies, will be beta-tested all over the world for big data possibilities about environmental risks to genomic integrity and biodiversity on our planet!
The push for citizen science with partners Hammerdirt for summertime microbial analyses of lake water around Montreux has been publicly available throughout those studies, and as mentioned above, this came out in an academic journal. Our urban garden tests, required more channeling of our inner Gregor Mendel, however, with weather a great problem also in the fourth season (second season bad too), and only so far convincingly significant results in the 3rd year (garden plant peas per plant were increased with the symbiotic bacteria, in contrast to the mock inoculated plants). However, whether average increases seen (about 25 vs 16 peas per plant on average), that year, after 2021's mixed bag (record number of peas per pod! in pots, better with bugs, but no sig), will be sufficient to tempt us to try a 5th go will depend on our community and others' interest.
(hint, gardening members, Now is the time to start planning for spring, and whether to do a 5th round.)
Other work around insulin is another possible project I have been gradually pulling together.
I have been preoccupied by the pandemic, Corona Detective, and local and world politics too, but fully hope to return to cutting-edge molecular studies in our nice lab space, and ideally aim to do a high-resolution imaging project of sub-nuclear architecture in human cells. An epifluorescence build of the OpenFlexure microscope was our current 'DIT Research' aim to enable both comet assay imaging and this goal, hopefully. (at least before the pandemic took over, and Corona Detective was born...)
Helping others to fulfil their projects at Hackuarium is very rewarding, while working to make this all sustainable is still a great challenge.
I welcome your help!
Declaration of further interests
Founder and CSO of AGiR! Action for Genomic integrity through Research!, a non-profit association for public health, meant to provide information and promote research on the dynamic processes happening in all of our cells. Genomic integrity is about much more than just fixed DNA sequences. It is dynamic, includes epigenetics and all sorts of RNAs, and many things we do regularly can affect it, potentially in a negative fashion, also impacting the environment and future generations.
Mother of two grown daughters, book, art and music lover, and keen amateur volleyball player (Echandens women's team)!