Chemist and cancer researcher finds ‘well-rounded life’ at SDSU
Tell us about yourself, including when your interest in science began, your education and research experience, and what led you to your current position as Assistant Professor and founder of the RAWC Lab at South Dakota State University.
My name is Dr. Rachel Willand-Charnley. My interest in science began in the lab of my grandfather’s veterinary clinic, where he served both large animals and small animals. I spent summers on the ranch in Illinois with my grandparents, and I spent most of my time at “the clinic” observing in the operating room and working in the lab. I distinctly remember wearing scrubs and a lab coat and looking at parasites under the microscope with my him. These experiences were the beginning of my interest in science.
Later, I began my undergraduate studies at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, and I eventually transferred to Creighton University. I was a biology major and pre-med, which required numerous courses in physics, chemistry, and math, in addition to biology. I distinctly remember being very nervous to take organic chemistry, so much so, I delayed taking the course until my junior year. Then and even now it is rumored to be a “weed-out course” for pre-professionals due to the difficulty of the course. I was surprised to find that I loved organic chemistry, so much so that I rejected my acceptance to medical school and began a chemistry PhD program at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.