Faculty & Staff

Rachel Skvirsky, PhD

Associate Professor of Biology - Molecular Genetics.


photo of Rachel Skvirsky

Areas of Expertise

Molecular Genetics


Harvard University, PhD, 1982
Oberlin College, BA, 1974

Professional Publications & Contributions

Additional Information

Teaching Interests

At the undergraduate level, Rachel Skvirsky teaches Genetics, a course that covers classical, bacterial, and molecular genetics. She also teaches Biology of Human Disease for non-science majors.  At the graduate level, she teaches Molecular Genetics of Bacteria and direct graduate research. In the summer, she teaches Cell Biology and Genetics—A Human Approach to middle and high school teachers through the NSF-sponsored Boston Science Partnership.  This course emphasizes science content, while modeling hands-on, inquiry-based teaching strategies. In addition to teaching genetics and cell biology at various levels, Skvirsky is interested in providing research experiences for undergraduates, maximizing student diversity in the sciences, and pursuing aspects of science education and pedagogy.

Research Interests

Microbiology; microbial ecology; molecular genetics. The native microflora of the mammalian gastrointestinal system consists of a diverse array of microbes existing in dynamic relationship with each other and with the host. Whether a bacterial strain can colonize and whether it establishes a commensal or pathogenic relationship with the host depend on complex interactions between bacteria and host and among the bacteria. Recent work is aimed at identifying plasmid-encoded factors that help E. coli to colonize and establish either commensal or pathogenic interactions. We are focusing on the role of a specific bacterial plasmid and the anti-bacterial toxin it encodes. We are using two approaches. The first is to model the interactions between toxin-producing and non-producing E. coli through in vitro competition experiments, and the second is to analyze the effects of the plasmid on the interaction of E. coli with mammalian host cells.

Current Grant Support

  • 2011 - 2013.  NSF Grant DBI-1062748, “REU Site:  Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Integrative and Evolutionary Biology.” R. Skvirsky, PI.
  • 2008 – 2012.  NIH Grant 1R25GM076321-01A1, “Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity at UMass Boston.”  R. Skvirsky and A. Colon-Carmona, PI’s.