Rachel Cotton ’10 Pursues Her Ph.D. at Harvard Medical School

My educational career has really taken off thanks in part to my experience at OLP. The academic rigor at OLP in Math and Science (Thanks Mrs. Lazar and Mr. Rauch!) gave me the opportunity to push myself and taught me valuable time-management skills – but also the ability to crank out a 15-page paper the day of the deadline when necessary! I was on Varsity Cheer 2006-2010, and was Head Captain with Leah Crane ’10 and Maria Gilbert ’10 our senior year. Cheer left me with some of my best life-long friends, the confidence to lead, and the drive to seek out a challenge!

As part of OLP’s Service Learning requirement, I volunteered in the Burn Unit at UCSD, and became interested in how our skin handles injury and infection. That summer I did an internship at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to pursue a career in biomedical research. I’m currently living in Boston where I’m working on my Ph.D. in Immunology at Harvard Medical School. I study how the immune system “sees” lipids in our skin. I hope to stay in biomedical research and academia – maybe as a dean or provost at a university someday.

Read More I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2014 with a degree in Biological Sciences. I was the Editor-in-Chief of Notre Dame’s undergraduate research journal, Scientia, and chaired the Biology Department Senior Leadership Committee (OLP Alumnae made up up 30 percent of the committee at one point when Chilinh Nguyen ’09 and Erin Boyle ’09 were also at Notre Dame). I did research on the immunology of tropical diseases like malaria and lymphatic filariasis at the Eck Institute for Global Health, Washington University in St. Louis, and the National Institutes of Health near Washington, D.C. I’ve since published four papers in peer-reviewed journals from that work.

In 2013 I created and led a new Science Policy Ethics course for Notre Dame, which takes 15 students to Washington, D.C. to explore the intersections of government funding, policy, and scientific research through the framework of Catholic Social Teaching. I now lead a similar Washington, D.C. trip for Harvard, as President of Harvard’s Graduate Science Policy Group.