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Rachel Rehlander, Biology, Undergraduate

University’s top female student shares memories of iupui experience

Rachel Rehlander | Biology, Undergraduate | Biology Department Being named IUPUI’s Most Outstanding Female Student may have caught Rachel Rehlander off guard, but spend some time with this accomplished biology major and you’ll soon realize that’s a rare occurrence.

 Since early high school when she discovered a passion for science, Rehlander has charted a course to become a primary care physician. Fresh from a successful career at IUPUI, she’s poised and ready to begin medical school this fall, joining several other first-year Indiana University School of Medicine students at one of the school’s satellite campuses at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.

Learn more about Rachel through this Q&A.

What have been your most valuable learning experiences during your time at IUPUI?

I really support the idea behind RISE to the IUPUI Challenge, an initiative encouraging students to include Research, International experience, Service learning and Experiential learning into their study. These are the types of experiences I enjoy talking about and why I think IUPUI is so outstanding. The opportunities I’ve had to work in a research lab, study abroad in Greece and volunteer through Alternative Spring Break combine education with practical experience and fun. They have been a valuable part of my education here, and experiences I’ll never forget.

Who have been your mentors here at IUPUI?

I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of great people on campus. As far as mentors, I’d have to say Dr. Kathleen Marrs in the School of Science has had a great influence on me. She was my first-year biology instructor and is also the advisor for the Biology Club, which I’ve been involved in for the past four years. She’s been very supportive of my career and recently wrote a letter of recommendation for me for medical school. I also worked in Dr. James Marrs’ (Kathleen’s husband) research lab, which gave me a chance to learn from him as well.


Describe your experience with undergraduate research and its impact on you.

As an undergraduate researcher in Dr. James Marrs’ lab, I helped study the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome using the zebra fish model. Basically, the research is designed to analyze the effect of ethanol on embryos and cell division. It’s a very interesting study, and I learned a great deal, not only from Dr. Marrs, but from the Ph.D. and graduate students in his lab.

While at IUPUI, I’ve also worked at the Indiana University School of Medicine in the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics and was a Life Health Sciences intern at the Bowen Research Center in the Indiana University Department of Family Medicine. I had the chance to learn alongside epidemiologists and graduate students in public health and also to shadow family practice physicians working in downtown Indianapolis. It was through these various practical experiences that I realized my true passion in medicine is for treating and interacting with patients.

Describe your experience with service learning and its impact on you.

Coming to IUPUI and seeing how important service is here really motivated me to get involved. As a freshman, I started participating in “day of service” events, and the volunteerism just grew from there. When I became a member of the Biology Club, I took part in club activities and as a member of the Housing & Residence Life Resident Assistant staff, there were always opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community.

Alternative Spring Break is a memorable service learning experience for me. As a junior, I went to Waveland, Mississippi, as part of a Habitat for Humanity crew rebuilding homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina. This year, I decided to lead a trip. Working with the Freedom Foundation, an outreach youth organization, we traveled to Selma, Alabama – a community still torn by racial segregation. We spent our spring break mentoring elementary school children, volunteering in the school and cleaning up a YMCA that had been damaged by water. It was the experience of a lifetime – a place that when you go, you can’t stop talking about it. The kids we worked with are putting on a play this summer, and I really want to go back and see them – to support them as they try to find their way living under difficult circumstances.

What’s your advice for incoming freshmen?

IUPUI is a big campus, but you have the extraordinary opportunity to choose who you want to make your family and your community. I have my Housing & Residence Life family, my School of Science and research family, my Biology Club family. These connections have been invaluable to me; it’s where I’ve gotten to know people and share experiences. My advice is to find at least one “family” while you’re here and make the experience your own.

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