Researcher Spotlight : Rachel Francoeur

Published: 23 November 2018

Kirsty McWhinnie caught up with Rachel Francoeur to discuss how her research was coming along ahead of her talk in the GKB as part of the Friday Seminar Series...

Pic of Rachel Francouer 01‌Can you remind us about your PhD?
My PhD is looking at within host factors that might influence schistosome infections. My field work takes place in Uganda where, despite over a decade of mass drug administration, ‘hotspots’ of hyperendemicity still persist. I am primarily looking at pharmacokinetics, immunology and coinfections in school aged children to see if any of these within host factors might play a role in reinfection rates, infection intensities or clearance post treatment. 

Why did you decide to do your PhD in IBACHM?
I knew I wanted to live and work in a reasonably sized city and was quite hopeful that I could come to Glasgow. The atmosphere within our department (and the city) is wonderful and working in such an up-beat environment appealed to me. I looked into a few jobs/PhD’s elsewhere, but this role seemed to have all the aspects I was looking for: field work, lab work, writing and data analysis.

What do you find most interesting about your work?
Every day is different. I really like the diversity of how many different tasks the role requires. I am fascinated with pathology and how host systems interact with pathogens and get to learn something new every day. 

What has been the most positive aspect so far?
I like that I have some freedom in developing the project. The outline and project proposal were quite flexible in how I carried out the work, so I have a lot of input into this project and I enjoy being able to be creative with the scientific process to find answers to unanswered questions. 

What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
Logistics are challenging. I have to work out of several labs in order to do some of the assays, finding times that suit various groups of people in which to do my work is always challenging. However, it has all worked out really well, and the people I have been able to work with have been really wonderful. 

How has your research progressed since we last heard from you?
I have completed a lot of my field and lab work and have started to clean data to do some modelling, I would say I have definitely made some progress. More importantly, I have learned so much more than I would have thought initially. 

Are you where you thought you would be a year ago?
No. I’m further along than I thought I would be in some areas and further behind in others. I think that is the nature of a PhD. 

Which part of your research have you enjoyed the most/felt most proud of?
I have thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with some experts at both Strathclyde University and in UoG Forensics department. I was able to analyse all of my pharmacokinetic samples as the result of that collaboration and got to meet some brilliant scientists in the process. 

Have you come up against any unforeseen challenges?
Oh yes! A major challenge was finding the equipment I needed, but I have now overcome that. Also, I was not initially able to get some results from samples I collected in the field and am now working on some alternative methods to see if they might work instead. 

What are the most important lessons you have learnt from your first year?
The end result is never going to look like what I thought it would. 

If you could tell your first-year-self one thing, what would it be?
Work/life balance is important. Make sure to do something other than PhD work. 

Catch Rachel’s talk “Within host factors influencing Schistosoma mansoni infections” as part of the Friday Seminar Series at 4pm on Friday November 23rd in the Graham Kerr Building.

First published: 23 November 2018