Dr Rachel Nelson, PhD

Head of CGaP, Cellular Generation & Phenotyping Core Facility

Rachel leads Cellular Generation and Phenotyping (CGaP), a team comprising ~30 staff specialising in cell biology projects at scale. Their portfolio includes a diverse collection of projects involved in cancer research, including identification of potentially new drug targets, as well as developing our understanding of human genetics and rare genetic disorders.

I took my first steps into a research laboratory aged 16 completing work experience at Liverpool University before returning as a technician aged 18. It was this initial exposure that started me down the path as a molecular and cellular biologist. Upon completing my PhD in 2010 I dipped my toe into the field of Project Management and found this is where my true skills lay. This prompted my move to industry where I took over the operation of the Cell Banking team at Horizon Discovery and acquired my PRINCE2 Project Managers qualification. Later, while working at HLS, I was exposed to the principles of Process Management, LEAN, 5S and Continuous Process Improvement and I was hooked! Determined to combine this knowledge with my original passion for cell biology, I returned to academia as a Staff Scientist at the Sanger Institute and was able to reshape the HipSci project within CGaP, resulting in its highly successful delivery. I have since progressed through the ranks to the position of Head of CGaP.

It is in this role that I am able to achieve the greatest level of fulfilment, aiding in shaping the growth of a whole department. I strongly believe that we can achieve the greatest success by operating as a united team, with shared goals and values centred on efficiency, continuous process improvement and a constant willingness to evolve. This level of innovation cannot be achieved when goals are driven from the top-down but when ideas are nurtured from the bottom-up and supported by the management culture that we foster in CGaP.

In engaging with the diverse opportunities available at The Sanger Institute, not only are we able to realise our scientific potential, but can also gain much broader scope for personnel development. Embedded within CGaP we have our own public engagement team and STEM Ambassadors who work closely with the institute to go out into the community and inspire the next generation of scientists. We have recently set up our own charity team which is proving to be highly successful, whilst many staff are also involved in spearheading the Sanger’s ‘Technicians Commitment’, ensuring a focus on the reward, acknowledgement and development of colleagues at all levels. CGaP also have a strong desire to share their skills and knowledge with the wider scientific community, reflected by the Advanced Courses we run as well as the latest initiative to publish everything that we do via protocols.io as well as publish other relevant journal articles.

I am hugely proud of the successes of my team and truly believe that it is a great place to work – a belief confirmed by our outstanding score in the institute-wide Great Place To Work Survey.

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