A Conversation with Rachel Kozlowski

About Rachel

Name: Rachel Kozlowski
Location: Atlanta, GA
Community Connection: Recent PhD!
Research Group: Dyer
Committee: Conticello, Kindt
Career: Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Instrument Specialist at Brewton-Parker College (Starting Fall 2020)
Alma Mater: Campbell University (Buies Creek, NC)

What are your hobbies?

Disc golf, board games (Dominion is the current favorite), videogames, taking care of my fish, and hammocking in the woods.

Lasers in the Dyer Lab

Describe your family and pets.

My dad is an estimator at Custom Steel Fabricators and my mom is a substitute teacher at local high schools. My brother Ryan is two years younger than me and is a PhD candidate in physics at Duke University. He studies soft matter physics and wants to become a professor! We had the most adorable rat terrier, Lola, and she lived the best life with us but passed in November… she loved Cheez-its and walks!

My fiancé, Micah Eller, and I are aquarium owners. We have panda cory catfish, neon tetras, a peacock gudgeon goby, several amano shrimp, and a variety of mystery and nerite snails. I have MANY pictures and videos of our aquatic life.

Do you have a system for being productive and dealing with procrastination?

I am more productive when I have a set amount of time for working, and when I know that I have a hard end-time for the day. I used to work 12-16 hour days in my first three years of grad school. I burned myself out, and I could no longer keep up with not having a life outside of work. Now, I work hard during a solid 8-9 hour day (with an hour break for lunch). I always take nights and weekends off (unless there is a big deadline coming up, like a dissertation and defense!) This structure allows me to have breaks and enjoy my life, which in turn actually makes me more productive during my working hours because I know that I will get a break every night and can refresh. I accomplish the same amount of work (and even more sometimes) in my 8-9 hours than I would working 12-16 hours, since I am focused and efficient.

Lasers in the Dyer Lab

If you could be any other type of scientist, what would you be and why?

I would be a mechanical engineer. I love trying to figure out how things work and fixing things that are broken. While I am able to explore enzymes and figure out how they work using physical methods, I would enjoy figuring out how things work and developing methodologies on a larger scale. As a mechanical engineer, I could really see the fruits of my work, as everything would be applied to a real-life mechanical situation.

A view of Rachel’s work bench in the Dyer Lab

How has your life changed — or not — as a result of COVID-19 closures?

I get to wear comfy clothes for work and have large windows at my desk so I can see daylight! When the wasps go away, I can enjoy my patio during the day… I was going to visit my family in NC for a weekend to celebrate being a new PhD, but I am now unable to do that right now. I will go out for a celebration dinner and a celebration trip home after everything slows down.

What are you most looking forward to when you start your new job at Brewton-Parker College this fall?

At Brewton-Parker, I will be a faculty member in the Math and Natural Sciences Department, which includes math, chemistry, physics, and biology. I will be the only chemistry professor! The previous chemistry professor unfortunately passed away and the students have been taking chemistry solely online for the past year and a half. I am excited to go in and finally offer these students real, in-person chemistry and lab courses, which is extremely important with a physical science like chemistry. I will also be working to build the chemistry part of the department and eventually create a chemistry major, as the students currently only have the option for a chemistry minor.

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