Interviews with Scientists: Rachel Sellick

Interviews with Scientists: Rachel Sellick
11 months ago

Interviews with Scientists: Rachel Sellick

It’s time for another of our Interviews with Scientists features, and this time we were lucky enough to chat with Rachel Sellick of Cardiff University! Rachel is a 3rd year PhD student in Neuroscience researching protein and gene interactions in neurodegeneration. Her focus is on Huntington’s Disease and her research work is led by Dr Michael Taylor and Professor Anne Rosser.

Her studies have taken her to the other side of the world with a previous 6-month stint in Australia, but she now splits her time between not only science research but also digital marketing for the British Neuroscience Association and running her own music PR company!

We caught up with this very busy neuroscientist to find out more about her career so far, her passion for science communication, and her love of country music!


Thanks for speaking with us, Rachel! Please can you tell us a little bit about your current role at Cardiff University?

I am a third year PhD student in the Biosciences department, but with a focus on Neuroscience. I am funded by the BBSRC and part of the South West Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership. I am also an Anatomy demonstrator and co-chair of the postgraduate Neuroscience society.


What is the focus of your PhD research?

I am interested in the genetic and protein interactions associated with striatal brain development and Huntington’s Disease. I am specifically interested in understanding how these interactions occur and whether, by manipulating gene expression, we can suppress mutant-Huntington induced neurodegeneration.


Did you always want to work in science when you were younger, and if so why?

I think so, but I wasn’t ever 100% sure. I was always really intrigued by science in general and studied Chemistry, Physics and Biology at AS level. I decided to go to University to study Anatomy and Human Biology because I really didn’t like plant biology… During my degree, I was really fortunate to spend 6-months studying abroad in Australia. It was during that time that I realised I had a passion for Neuroscience and decided to come back and study a Masters of Research in Biomedical Sciences and Translational Medicine, with a focus on Neuroimaging in Epilepsy. My love of research really stemmed from there.


What excites you most about the work that you do?

I think it is really all about potential. I’m sure that we all know of someone who has been impacted and affected by a neurodegenerative disease, and that they are currently untreatable. I am really passionate and motivated by the idea that the research I do could one day enhance their quality of life, and give them the life they deserve, for longer. 


What are your hopes for the future of Huntington’s Disease research?

I think that there are so many new techniques and technologies coming to the forefront of science that are going to be incredibly beneficial for future treatment of Huntington’s and other neurological conditions. I joined the Brain Repair Group in Cardiff as a Research Assistant before starting my PhD, and was part of the research team, using foetal cells for transplantation as a new therapeutic approach for Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease. There are incredible advances being made in the field of cell replacement therapy which will be crucial to developing new treatments in the future.


You also work in digital marketing for the British Neuroscience Association. What does this role involve?

As a digital marketing officer, my main focuses include social media promotion on all platforms, driving traffic to the website, and hoping to share the incredible work that the BNA does to gain more members. I was really fortunate to cover the BNA2023 festival in Brighton, meeting the speakers, and our new president-elect, Professor Tara Spires-Jones.


What do you enjoy about your work with the BNA?

I absolutely love the team. They are an incredible group of people, all passionate about sharing great neuroscience from the UK and abroad. They are incredibly supportive, and I’m really grateful for how they motivate and encourage me, both in science communications and in my PhD.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing life scientists today?

I think the media is a very difficult outlet to compete with. It’s very easy for sentences and paragraphs of journal articles to be taken out of context to suit what the media wants to portray to the public. I completely appreciate that it makes the research interesting but we never want to lead people down to wrong understandings. That’s why I’m so passionate about science communications and public engagement – we can share the research from the researchers directly.


What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career so far?

Keep reminding yourself of just how far you’ve come. It can be so easy to get caught up thinking that everything is going wrong and nothing is moving forward, but if you take a few minutes to consider where you were only a few months ago, you can remind yourself that even when it gets difficult, you are moving forward and making steps to where you want to be. Everything happens for a reason.


Who has been your greatest role model, and why?

When answering this question, I was trying to think about all the famous female scientists and business women that I could say, but I think I’ve come back to simply saying, my parents. Nobody is perfect, and my parents would be the first to admit that neither are they, but without them, I wouldn’t know the values I have today. They taught me how to have faith, gave me opportunities to study, go to a good school, try out every sporting activity under the sun, and let me fail. It is through failure that we learn so many lessons about being resilient, and making good decisions.


Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing most? (e.g. hobbies, passion projects, etc.)

Fun fact, I have my own public relations music business, Scarlet River PR. Music has always been a huge part of my life, and a few years ago, I was involved in helping an artist tour the US. During COVID-19, I became increasingly passionate about partnering with developing artists and getting their music in front of those who needed to hear it. I now work with artists all over the world, promoting their releases and building tours. Outside, I love to play Hockey!


How do you see your career progressing in the future/where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I love this question! I am really passionate about continuing in the research field. I hope to be researching in the States and am currently looking for post-graduate opportunities at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. I want to be able to ‘move up the food chain’ of research in academia, but also hope that I can share my research at conferences and through public engagement opportunities. I also love my music career and really want to be in the right place for that... Nashville, TN.


What do you think is the greatest scientific discovery OR invention of all time?

Oh gosh... who knows?! There are so many great scientific discoveries that without today, we wouldn’t be able to do very much. I came across an article recently that was talking about the ‘wheel’ as the best invention and that isn’t a bad shout. Can you imagine the length of time it would take for us to get anywhere or do anything without wheels?


What’s your favourite science joke?

I’m an Anatomist, so this always made me laugh:

“The best way to a man’s heart is through the fifth left intercostal space at the midclavicular line”.


And finally… is there anything else you would like to tell us about?

I recently hosted Pint of Science in Cardiff as the city coordinator which was great fun. We hosted 6 events over three days, which took science and research to pubs, restaurants and cafes around the world to inform and educate. I was able to combine my two passions, science and music, in one event, hosting a great night of live music, lectures from researchers at the University of South Wales and the talks from the co-founders of ‘With Music In Mind’. I definitely recommend checking it out and making it to an event local to you next year.


Thanks for such a great interview Rachel! Wishing you the very best of luck with both your science research and your exciting music career!

Connect with Rachel:


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