Personal Story - Rachel Sanford (CBMG Media Lab Manager)

I grew up in the suburbs of Annapolis in Edgewater, MD. I was fortunate to grow up in a quiet cul-de-sac on the water, where my younger brother and I would spend our time collecting frogs and tadpoles from the surrounding woods, catching minnows and grass shrimp off our pier, or playing various blacktop games with the neighborhood kids. I was never afraid to handle different creatures, as long as they didn’t bite or sting me, and I like to think that my environment growing up influenced my desire to learn more about science, specifically biology. Here, at the University of Maryland as a 1st-gen college graduate, I received my BS in Biology in 2019.

Before working in the CBMG Department, I had the opportunity to work in the Hamby Lab in the Entomology Department at UMD, both as an undergrad and after I graduated. I spent the summers of 2018-2020 navigating my way through endless rows of corn, identifying different pest damage and collecting corn ear worms for bioassays. While I wasn’t working on my tan out in the research fields, I continued to assist in graduate research in the lab. From counting spotted wing drosophila larvae in raspberry larval flotations, to isolating fungi for DNA extractions and sequencing, there was never a dull moment. Even during the height of the pandemic, I was able to bring research home and count and weigh thousands of soybeans for dectes stem borer research right in my dining room. Working in the Hamby Lab helped solidify my enjoyment in working in research and higher education, especially in the UMD community.

Outside of my interests in biology and science is my enthusiasm for learning about other cultures. As a teenager, I had the opportunity to be a People to People Student Ambassador. This program was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s desire for world peace, something that he believed could be obtained through the world’s youth learning about other cultures and fostering mutual respect. Through the program, I was able to visit Australia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Italy, and the Galápagos Islands. While every trip was unforgettable, being able to witness Galápagos tortoises, marine iguanas, and Darwin’s finches felt like a biology dream come true. Not only was I able to take in the beautiful sites, but I was able to learn more about the cultures and histories of each country and give back to the local communities through various acts of service. My ultimate bucket list item is to visit every continent, and the country I wish to travel to the most is Japan to connect with my family living there and learn about my Japanese heritage.

When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending my time reading, listening to music, drawing, kayaking and snowboarding. My favorite things to draw are animals, especially from photos I have taken, but I find joy in drawing anything really. I’m slowly trying to teach myself digital art; the learning curve hasn’t been the kindest, but practice makes perfect.


At the time of writing this, I have only been with the CBMG Department for two months, but it has felt much longer thanks to all of the wonderful faculty and staff that I have met and gotten to know. If you ever find yourself in the basement of the Microbio building, either picking up a package or enjoying the calming sounds (and smells) of the autoclaves, swing by the Media Prep room and be sure to say hi!