Rachel Andres, a recent graduate of the College of Education, is one of two students from USask selected as a 2024 Rhodes Scholar. (Photo: Submitted)
Rachel Andres, a recent graduate of the College of Education, is one of two students from USask selected as a 2024 Rhodes Scholar. (Photo: Submitted)

USask Rhodes Scholar to pursue passion for plant science at Oxford

One of the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) newest Rhodes Scholars, Rachel Andres plans to take her love for research and her home roots to new ground at the University of Oxford to complete a graduate degree in biological sciences.

Andres is one of two students from USask selected as a 2024 Rhodes Scholar. She is a recent graduate of the College of Education and is now working towards earning her Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree from the College of Arts and Science, majoring in biology.

As a recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, Andres will have tuition, fees and living expenses covered while she pursues graduate studies at the University of Oxford in England.

“I was honestly in shock when I found out I was selected,” said Andres. “I was in the car with my parents on the way home from the selection weekend in Calgary when I got the call. It was a very special moment and all three of us were very excited.”

Originally from Hepburn, Sask., Andres moved to Saskatoon after high school to pursue an undergraduate degree in USask’s College of Education.

“I initially went into education because I love learning and wanted to share my excitement about knowledge with other people,” she said. “However, I came to the end of my education degree and I realized I wasn’t ready to be done with my formal education. I pursued my honours degree, started a research project, and fell in love with research.”

During her time at USask, Andres has worked as a teaching assistant in the biology and English departments, and has been involved with multiple research projects during her honours degree. Her work has spanned studying the function of cannabinoids to the foraging behaviour of bats, but Andres found a passion for plant science rooted in her experiences growing up on her family’s farm.

“I grew up in a farming family and spent countless hours helping my dad and grandfather on the farm,” said Andres. “My upbringing on my family’s grain farm inspired a deeply ingrained curiosity and sense of wonder that has served as the impetus for much of my scientific journey. I sometimes joke that the farm was my first ‘lab.’”

Her research interest lies in how genetics play a role in creating resilient crops that will be able to withstand future climate change challenges that farmers will face, including her own family.

“My sister plans to take over the [family] farm and I’m interested in performing research in the plant sciences that helps create better crops and improve food security around the world,” Andres said.

Besides her academic accomplishments, Andres’ passion for community shines through in the many hobbies and interests she pursues outside of academia. A lifeguard and lifeguarding instructor, she has a passion for water sports and is a member of the Saskatoon Canoe Club. A lover of music, she is also a member of USask’s choral group, the Greystone Singers.

All these activities have contributed to her interests in mentorship and community leadership, and having recently spent time in Europe while travelling, applying for the Rhodes Scholarship proved to be an easy decision for Andres, as it allowed her the potential opportunity to study internationally and continue “expanding my worldview.”

She hopes to one day return to the Prairies to work as a professor, with joint teaching and research duties.

“I feel so honoured to be selected and thrilled to have the opportunity to represent my home province at Oxford,” she said. “I am excited to go to Oxford as a member of the Rhodes community, meet people from across the world, and learn from the many diverse perspectives I will encounter, but I am also excited to be an advocate for issues facing rural communities.”

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