Rachel Hammelman

Laboratory Technician, The Brisson Lab

You work in a laboratory.  What are you currently researching?

I work in the Brisson lab and we are studying evolutionary genetics and genomics in the pea aphid. Currently one of the big questions we are working on is the evolution of wings and their developmental mechanisms.

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?

I spent the majority of my childhood outside, playing in the dirt and reading books about nature. I think the amazement that there were so many different living things out in the world was the driving factor for my involvement in biology. I wanted and still want to know what’s out there and how they got to be that way, so I feel like there was no better place for me to land than in ecology and evolution. 

What do you enjoy most about working here at the U of R?

The people. It sounds cheesy, but even during my undergraduate studies here, I always felt so supported by the faculty, staff, and students I interacted with. The Department feels like home, and that is invaluable to me. 

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?

The most important thing I’ve learned is to ask questions. Ask questions when you don’t understand something, when something goes wrong (or right!), whether you’re designing an experiment or giving a talk. Learning how to ask good questions is crucial to not only research, but to becoming a critical thinker in your day-to-day life as well.

How do you unwind when you’re not in the lab?

I love being outside, so I use my free time to go on local hikes or find a weekend to escape to the Adirondacks. Despite my horrendous allergies, getting a deep breath of fresh air is one of the most relaxing things for me.