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Going for gold

2014 Goldwater Scholar Rachel Soble discusses her research interests and career aspirations.

Rachel Soble (Genetics, Cell Biology and Development / Computer Science) was recently named a 2014 Goldwater Scholar; the only University of Minnesota undergraduate to receive the honor this year. Soble took time out to talk about her reaction to receiving the prestigious award (which comes with a $7,500 scholarship), what sparked her interests in microbiology and computational biology, and her future plans.

On being named a Goldwater Scholar

“I’m very thankful for this honor. It gives me the confidence to apply to top graduate programs and persevere in my research. I’m especially grateful for my research mentors who have taught me so much in the past two years and have opened up new opportunities to me in research and in pursuing the Goldwater.”

On what initially interested her in research focusing on engineering bacterial cooperation

“Three years ago, I would not have guessed that would want to be a microbiologist. I applied to work in Dr. Jeff Gralnick’s lab because I hadn’t heard of bacteria doing cool things like ‘breathing metals’ before. Since then, I’ve learned just how diverse, powerful, prevalent and essential these organisms are. I’m especially fascinated by exquisite bacterial interactions between themselves and the environment. Bacterial capabilities will continue to astound me. I’ve also loved math since I was a kid, and I admire its elegance. Developing computational techniques for understanding more about biology provide an interesting and challenging way for me to grow as a thinker and explore biological questions from a new perspective.”

On her future aspirations as a researcher

“I’d like to go to graduate school for computational biology and then become a research professor, applying both wet lab and computational techniques to understanding microbial ecology and physiology. My previous and current projects have given me a glimpse into the untapped potential and unexplained mysteries of microorganisms. Through a research internship this upcoming summer, I’ll be working on a data analysis project on the human microbiome. Using the experience from these types of projects, I hope to develop a research plan in the coming years that fully integrates wet lab investigations with powerful computational analyses.”

– Lance Janssen