Rachelle Lapham developed a love for plants and animal husbandry at an early age while growing up on her family’s farm. Involvement in agricultural programs such as 4-H, the National FFA Organization, and the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) inspired her to pursue a career in science. While she pursued a Bachelor’s degree at Purdue University in Biology, she had the opportunity to work for Dr. Maureen McCann, studying plant cell wall genetics for the improvement of second generation biofuels. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant for three years, developing a passion for plant sciences. Her majors in Genetics and Microbiology began to fuel an interest in plant host-microbe interactions. An internship at Dow AgroSciences supporting maize genetic transformation allowed her to explore her new found passion and gain experience in genetic engineering. This led to a position as a contracting Molecular Biologist for the soybean transformation group at Dow AgroSciences. Here she expanded her skill set and set a foundation for her future research of Agrobacterium.
She was approached by Dr. Stanton Gelvin (Purdue University) with the opportunity to pursue a Ph. D. studying the underlying mechanisms of Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation. She has spent six years studying the effect that the Agrobacterium virulence protein, VirE2, has on the plant transcriptome during the early stages of infection. She was awarded a two-year Andrew’s Fellowship from the Purdue University Graduate School, a one-year research grant from the Purdue Research Foundation, Yeunkyung Woo Achieve Excellence Travel Award from the Department of Biological Sciences (Purdue), and was on the Graduate Student Honor Roll. She has given talks and presented posters at four national and two international Agrobacterium meetings. She served as the President for two-years of the Biology Graduate Student Association. She also worked part-time as a tutor and assistant for hearing and visually impaired students at the Purdue University Disability Resource Center. She enjoyed teaching microbiology and helped to rewrite and edit the latest version of the manual used for the introductory microbiology laboratory class for undergraduate students pursuing careers in health-related fields.
She writes, creates videos, posts about interesting scientific discoveries and the ins and outs of daily research, and advocates for science on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, and various online Discord communities. She also hosts Q&A livestreams on various topics on Twitch which are then uploaded to Youtube. She volunteered as the Social Media Coordinator of the Purdue Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) group to promote and inform the public of the research and accomplishments of the CMB research group in the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue University. She helped to found the Purdue Center for Plant Biology Trainee Association (CPBTA) and served as the secretary for the first executive board.
She recently graduated from Purdue University with a Ph.D in Plant Molecular Biology and Biochemistry before moving to Roseville, MN to start her career as a Research Scientist in the Technology Development Group at Calyxt, Inc. She serves on the Calyxt Engagement Committee (CEC) as well as the Science Leadership Team (SLT). She has also acted as a reviewer for the Frontiers in Plant Science and Plant Molecular Biology research journals. She has continued her science communication work as an ASPB Plantae Fellow by hosting monthly live Q&A streams on twitch.tv/drunkphytologist discussing a variety of biology topics with an emphasis on plants. Recordings can be found on Youtube.com. She also co-hosts the science-themed podcast "Natural Twenty" which discusses the lore, history, and biology of Dungeons & Dragons creatures (naturaltwentypodcast.podbean.com) with episodes being released monthly.
In her free time, she enjoys playing and running games of Dungeons and Dragons for family and friends, singing and playing the ukulele, sewing, gardening, and taking long walks with her husband.
Career Status: Industry Scientist- greater than 50 total employees
Research Areas: Applied Plant Biology, Biotic Interactions, Food Security, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Genetics
Lapham, RA., L.Y. Lee, and S.B. Gelvin. (2018) VIP1 and its homologs are not required for Agrobacterium-mediated transformation bit play a role in Botrytis and salt stress responses. Frontiers in Plant Science https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2...
Lapham, RA., L.Y. Lee, and S.B. Gelvin. (In preparation) A novel role for the Agrobacterium virulence effector protein VirE2 in modulating plant gene expression.
Buuck, RA., 2012. Mapping Genomes: A Novel Gene Family in Plants may Encode Pectin-modifying Proteins in Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research second issue (Available at http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jpur/).
Plantae Fellow March 2020-Present
Host monthly question and answer "Drink and Think" streams on twitch.tv/drunkphytologist, discussing various biology topics (emphasis on plants), cocktails, and answering audience questions. Video recordings of streams are included as content for the Plantae Science Outreach Program and can be found on Youtube.com.
Science Advocate, Writer, and Educator May 2018-Present
Creator of the “Daily Dose” blog discussing biology and science in everyday life posted on Twitter (@DrunkPhyto) and Facebook (The Drunk Phytologist). Co-host of science-themed Dungeons & Dragons podcast "Natural Twenty" (naturaltwentypodcast.podbean.com). Created and posted videos on Youtube.com showing and explaining molecular and microbiological techniques.
Executive Board: Secretary for Purdue Center for Plant Biology Trainee Association November 2018-May 2019
Organized and recruited the first executive board and drafted the first constitution of the CPBTA. Took minutes at all meetings and managed all documentation associated with CPBTA. The CPBTA serves as an organization to promote and organize professional development, team-building, and social activities for the benefit of the Center for Plant Biology (CPB) post-doctoral researcher and graduate student body. The CPBTA Executive Board also acts as liaison between the CPB faculty and CPB trainees for academic, professional, and social expectations.
Social Media Coordinator for the Purdue Cell and Molecular Biology Research Group August 2018-May 2019
Writing, managing, and promoting the achievements and research of faculty, staff, and students in the Purdue Cell and Molecular Biology group on Facebook and Twitter.
Plant Sciences Symposium Planning Committee January 2017-December 2018
Served as a member of the planning committee for a graduate student organized plant science symposium, Phenotyping for the Future, sponsored by Pioneer. The symposium is to be held in August 2017 and I am responsible to maintaining and updating our social media pages to advertise the event.
Driver and assistant August 2015-May 2019
Transported and assisted a person who is visually impaired and her guide dog to and from campus, appointments, church, and helped with shopping.
Biology Graduate Student Association: Purdue University March 2016-May 2017
Served as president of the Biology Graduate Student Association, coordinated and organized the work of the other officer, planned orientation and recruitment events, attended faculty meetings and served as the representative of the Biology Graduate Students to the Purdue Graduate Student Government.
Biology Graduate Student Council: Purdue University August 2013-May 2019
Voting member, participant, and officer of the Biology Graduate Student Council, helped with recruitment and orientation events for incoming and new graduate students to the department. Served as “Big Sister” and mentor for incoming first-year Ph.D students.
University Lutheran Church: West Lafayette, IN February 2013-May 2017
Served as the Choir Director of a choir consisting of local church members and students until May of 2016. Position included responsibility for leading rehearsals, vocal coaching, and conducting during performances. Vice-president and volunteer for University Lutheran Women in Mission LWML chapter until October 2014 when I was elected President and served in that position until January 2017. I am still an active member of both the choir and the University Lutheran Women in Mission.
Purdue Alumni Club of Tippecanoe County June 2012-July 2016
Served on the Board of Directors as Treasurer in charge of budgeting accounts and expenses as well as coordinated, hosted and assisted in planning volunteer and club events.
Purduettes: Purdue Musical Organizations: Purdue University August 2008-May 2012
Learned public speaking skills, presentation skills, networking, and leadership skills useful for a career in research while performing in a women’s varsity glee club of 60 members, traveled to over 200 venues in the United States as singing ambassadors for Purdue University. Performed in a specialty quartet called the Flappers and received two merit scholarships from Purdue Musical Organizations. Recipient of the “Solid as a Rock” Award at the conclusion of senior year for leading by example and selflessness in service for Purdue Musical Organizations as a whole.
Women in Science Program: Purdue University August 2011-May 2012
Selected to represent the Undergraduate Honors Research Program at the November program. Mentor for freshman and sophomores enrolled in the Women in Science program and learning communities.
Boiler League of Tag: Purdue University May 2010- May 2012
Appointed as an Administrative officer of Campus Relations in the Boiler League of Tag Club (January 2010- August 2011). Coordinated philanthropy fundraising for Riley Children’s Hospital and food collection for Food Finder’s Food Bank in Lafayette, IN. Organized advertising and recruitment events as well as an effective communication system during large club events throughout the semester. Appointed Administrative officer of Rules and Historian Committee in the Boiler League of Tag Club (January 2012 - May 2012). Managed and trained a team of 50 moderators in rule enforcement during large events to ensure fair-play and safety for all participants.