Six questions to Rachel Denley Bowers


Question 1

What fascinates you most about natural sciences?

I think the most fascinating thing about the natural sciences is its amazing complexity- countless interactions between atoms, molecules, cells, organisms…! And that this seeming chaos produces everything we see in the world around us! Natural sciences are literally limitlessly interesting.

Question 2

What is your favorite plant and why?

Generally, my favourite plant is probably the oak tree. Growing up in York, where everything is old, I grew up around many ancient oaks and it was this fascination with those impossibly old living things that really sparked my interest in plant science. In particular, my favourite plant is a complete mystery plant which grew in my grandmother’s garden. I have given cuttings to lots of plant scientists over the years and no one has identified the species (any botanist reading this is more than welcome to ask me for photos).

Question 3

Which incident from your life as a researcher has remained in your memory the most?

I remember during my time at the John Innes Centre having to find a mill which was capable of grinding the wheat grains I had grown in a manner suitable for further testing at a facility in Australia. Eventually, after contacting several small mills across England I ended up in contact with a woman who worked for a mill in Oxfordshire, and she was so fascinated by every step in the analysis of the wheat, she kept in contact with me for a long time and was very helpful. It really made me realise that the public have a huge hunger for science communication.



How does your everyday life look like under the currently changing conditions of the corona pandemic?

Luckily as a theoretician, I have been able to carry on work at a relatively normal rate during the isolation. However, face-to-face discussion with colleagues is so important in all fields, and it is sorely missed. We meet regularly over zoom and are trying to keep regular contact, but this is unfortunately no replacement for physically being in the same office. I am very glad my lab are all trying hard to stay in touch with each other.

On a personal note, as I live alone this isolation means I have not had "real world" contact with other people in some time, this is obviously very difficult .

Question 4

What advice would you give to young scientists?

Remember that the most important thing about your research is your passion for it. It is easy to be tempted to push yourself to exhaustion in order to get the best results, but if you become too tired you will start to lose that passion. If you take care of your mental health first, then your research will flourish. Don’t forget to take time outside of the lab and become a well-rounded person, not just a scientist!

Question 5

If you had the choice, which research question would you like to be able to answer?

I think it would be really fascinating to study how large plants grow in microgravity- imagine trees growing in space?  Would it be possible to create a microclimate in space, using plants to regulate oxygen and water content? What would an apple grown in space taste like?

Question 6

What's your favorite thing to do after work?

Normally I love wild swimming, cycling, walking… But current circumstances have changed my hobbies. Now, I am running a version of the UK tv show taskmaster for my friends back home (check out #hometasking on twitter if you’re interested in what that entails). I`m also cross stitching, painting and writing.

"In particular, my favourite plant is a complete mystery plant which grew in my grandmother’s garden." (Rachel Denley Bowers)



Rachel Denley Bowers


Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for Quantitative and Theoretical Biology, HHU

In CEPLAS since:

January 2020

Place of birth:

York, England