Rachel Tucker

Rachel Tucker, Senior Research Technician and Genomics Laboratory Manager, reflects on her career journey, including some unusual and fantastic organisms she’s worked with such as Nightjars and House Sparrows.

Rachel stands in her lab, hands in her lab coat pocket smiling at the camera

Rachel Tucker, Senior Research Technician and Genomics Laboratory Manager in the School of Biosciences, Faculty of Social Sciences. 

Rachel’s background is in conservation biology. Following a year in Mauritius, working on the reintroduction of the critically endangered bird - the Olive White Eye - and four endemic species of gecko, she went on to undertake a Masters in Evolution, Ecology and Conservation. 

Following the completion of her research project, Rachel began her career as a technician allowing her to continue working on endangered animals and their conservation, whilst being able to specialise in the field of Genomics. 

Since becoming Lab Manager, Rachel has played a vital role in the design and setup of the Genomic Laboratory clean rooms, setting up multiple new workflows within the lab, and having the opportunity to specialise in many techniques.

Rachel’s work has seen her working with unusual and fantastic organisms such as Nightjars, Elephants, Basking Sharks, Badgers and House Sparrows. 

Rachel reflects on her career journey: 

“I’ve been working in the Genomics Laboratory as Lab Manager since 2015, which is home to 10 research groups and the NERC Environmental Omics Facility (NEOF). It can have up to 90 researchers connected to it at any one time. Since moving to the role, I’ve continued to conduct research with Professor Burke and Professor Slate, whilst managing the day-to-day running of the laboratory. 

“Throughout my time at the lab, I have really enjoyed setting up multiple new workflows and having the opportunity to specialise in many techniques. I’ve also been able to work on a huge range of unusual and fantastic organisms such as Nightjars, Elephants, Basking Sharks, Badgers and House Sparrows. 

“I’ve also spent time training many students and researchers on the techniques carried out within the Genomics laboratory. This is something I’ve really enjoyed as it’s an opportunity to work with a range of different people but also contribute to and impact the research that takes place in the lab. 

“Looking back, something I’m particularly proud of is my role in COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium. At the start of the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic, the Genomics Laboratory was closed during the lockdowns. I decided to use my time and skills with DNA and sequencing to help Professor Thushan de Silva set up a Covid sequencing lab in the Medical School, which became part of the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium.  

“The country-wide consortium used CARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing and analysis to inform public health policy in the fight against Covid. It was amazing to have the opportunity to contribute towards the fight against the pandemic, and I am proud that the skills I had obtained in my own field of research were able to be applied here. I also was very grateful for the opportunity to learn new skills and work in a new environment. 

“Coming from a background in conservation biology, sustainability has always been at the forefront of my attitude towards science and research. Researchers account for 0.1% of the world's population, but it is estimated that labs are responsible for 2% of plastic waste. Over the last year, I have made it my mission to ensure the Genomics Laboratory Facility is working as sustainably as it possibly can. For example, I have invested in a lab plastic recycling scheme, where all of the plastic is taken away and repurposed. I plan on implementing other options in the near future, in order to further reduce plastic and energy usage. 

“What sticks with me the most is that I have felt very inspired by my academic colleagues to continue learning throughout the last 14 years. It has been a privilege to work in an academic environment. Despite choosing a career firmly in the technical route I have always been encouraged to further my skill set and knowledge, and always been made to feel like I am a part of the team. This would have been much harder, if I were not surrounded by inspirational colleagues.” 

Rachel is using a pipet to transfer a liquid.

Thank you to all the women for taking the time to share their stories and reflections and for providing the information featured on these web pages.