Rachel Gula


I grew up in a small town in the Chaparral just east of San Diego, exploring places like the tide pools, Torrey Pines State Park (lovely ocean vistas and beaches), and SeaWorld. Though interested in marine science, I headed towards medical school during my three years at Houghton College in upper NY State. While there, I delved into botanical genetics projects, developing detection methods for grapevine viruses with one professor and later researching the variability of cranberries in NY bogs with my honors project advisor. As I did more research, I found myself less interested in practicing medicine and more in becoming a research scientist, specifically in studying oceanic life.

 gula2A juvenile Hippopus hippopus giant clam, with its foot sticking out and Symbiodinium algae visible in the mantle as brown dots.

After graduating Houghton in 2015 with double major in mathematics and biology, I came to Rutgers and joined the lab of Dr. Diane Adams, where we study larval development, ecology, and interactions with the environment from a molecular and systems biology standpoint. My current research focuses on the development of symbiotic relationships at the larval stage – how these are established and by what mechanisms host and symbiont are communicating and controlling each other at an early stage. This past summer, my research took me to the island of Palau to use photosynthetic giant clams and their relationship to Symbiodinium algae as a model.

 gula3Swimming in Palau’s “Milky Way”, a lagoon with limestone clay covering the bottom.

Other ways I spend my time at Rutgers include volunteering at science-related events and tutoring students in math and science, so that I can encourage younger students to explore STEM topics. I also enjoy photography and traditional art.