Rachel Brewer


Where are you from?

I am from Wasilla, Alaska and completed my undergraduate degree in Anchorage, Alaska.

GS: What degree did you/will you receive and when?
RB: I received my BS in Biological Sciences in 2006 from the University of Alaska Anchorage. I plan to graduate in 2015 with my PhD in the Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine theme.
GS: What is your research? 

My research is looking at the interactions between nutrition and longevity. In particular, I am studying in a mouse model the mechanism by which a drug that inhibits carbohydrate metabolism may work to extend how long the mice live. We have seen some exciting results so far and I am interested to see what else we are able to uncover.

GS: Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
RB: Many factors drew me to UAB. The Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine theme is distinct from programs at many other schools in that it allows students to work with researchers from a variety of departments. Additionally, with the high level of collaboration between researchers at UAB, students expand their professional network while having the opportunity to learn a variety of techniques. Finally, UAB is ranked highly in the amount of research funding it receives, demonstrating the high quality of research being performed here.
GS: Have you received any awards or honors?
RB: In 2012 I received an Early Investigator Commendation from the Society for Heart and Vascular Metabolism and gave a talk at their international meeting in Oxford, England. I’ve received 2nd place for a poster presentation at the Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center Symposium and 1st place at the Graduate Biomedical Student Organization Student Research Retreat. In 2013 I was 2nd place in my session for my presentation at Graduate Student Research Day and this year I was 1st place in my session. This year I’ve also been selected as a top 10 finalist by the American Society for Nutrition Energy and Macronutrient Metabolism-RIS and will be competing for an award at their upcoming scientific sessions.
GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
RB: By far the most rewarding experience has been establishing my peer network. The students at UAB are some of the greatest people and the friends I’ve made here have become like family. At times, being a long way from family during graduate studies can be difficult, but a strong support system of friends makes a difference. My fellow graduate students are professionals and enthusiastic about their work. I am excited to see what many of them will accomplish later in their careers.
GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
RB: My PI, Dr. Daniel Smith, demonstrates the type of scientist I would like to become. His passion and excitement for science is infectious and motivates everyone around him. He makes clear that science is a process and that it is okay to make mistakes now and then as long as you are learning from them and advancing. By trying to look at science from outside the box, Dr. Smith demonstrates how to incorporate a variety of outlooks into your research. And above all, Dr. Smith approaches everyone as someone he can learn something from, no matter their position or experience. That is the type of scientist I aspire to be someday.
GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?
RB: Science has always been a passion of mine. The desire to discover new information and share it with the world pushes me every day. Research captures the excitement of trying an experiment to see what happens. There is nothing much more exciting than receiving the results of an experiment that you have planned and executed! Each new result leads to a new set of questions, allowing for the never-ending pursuit of answers.
GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
RB: As I’m still a little ways away from graduation, I’m considering multiple career paths. My passion for science and research has me considering a postdoc position, though I am also looking into science consulting careers.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

RB: UAB has been a great place to work towards my degree. The faculty have been very supportive, even during difficult times, and there are lots of opportunities to get involved with different organizations. Additionally, there are many professional development courses and seminars to help build up your skills and CV.

Rachel’s Advice for Other Graduate Students:
Graduate school can be really tough. I think the most important thing is finding a way to make it work for you. Try to focus on your reason for being there, whether it is because you love the subject or because your desired career requires it. If something isn’t working for you though, don’t be afraid to change it. This is your training, so take charge of it. But don’t forget to take some time to have fun too. Most of us love what we do, but forgetting to take a break can take a toll on you.