Rachel first became interested in astronomy as a child and considers herself extremely fortunate to have been able to pursue the subject as a career. She studied for her M.Sci in Physics with Astrophysics at the University of Birmingham, England before joining the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, where her Ph.D. thesis focused on searching for transiting exoplanets among stars in open clusters.
After graduating from St. Andrews, she moved to Queen's University, Belfast in Northern Ireland as a founding member of the SuperWASP transit-hunting program, where she was later awarded a PPARC Post-doctoral Fellowship. Rachel made significant contributions to the data pipeline development and data processing for the early SuperWASP project, which lead to its first planetary discoveries. SuperWASP went on to become the most successful ground-based transit hunting program.
Rachel joined LCO in 2007 and has been privileged to watch the Observatory develop. She expanded her planet-hunting techniques to focus on the technique of microlensing, and founded the microlensing research group at LCO. She was Principle Investigator of the first microlensing Key Project, known as RoboNet, and is a core contributor of both subsequent microlensing Key Projects, ROME/REA and OMEGA.
This research gave her a great deal of experience in the trials and tribulations of observing transient phenomena and led her to develop a number of prototype database-driven Target and Observation Manager systems to help manage the workload. These became the motivation for her to lead the development of the TOM Toolkit Project, an open-source package designed to make it easy for astronomers to build and customise these powerful systems for their own science.
Looking to the future, Rachel has contributed to preparations for both the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which will undertake a survey of the Galactic Bulge in order to discover microlensing planets and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory's Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST)., which will perform a groundbreaking survey of the Southern Sky. Rachel co-chairs the Transient & Variable Science Collaboration, one of eight collaborations dedicated to preparing for LSST.
Rachel is Program Lead of the new "Preparing for Astrophysics with LSST Program", and she is grateful for the support of the Hesing-Simons Foundation, which has made it possible. This program will support researchers in galactic, transient and solar system science to prepare for LSST, with a particular emphasis on promoting equity of opportunity in science.