Rachel Tyndale

Mixing Logic and Curiosity

Her research into addiction could save lives, but she's not just focused on the end game: "Work in an area you love... and are proud of."


Rachel Tyndale is the head of Pharmacogenomics at the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Endowed Chair in Addictions, and a Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology & Toxicology, and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.  We asked her everything from what advice she would give to young researchers to what she does for fun to give you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What inspired you to become a researcher?
The honest answer is probably because my marks in high school in science classes were better than in other subjects and I got a summer job in research after my first year of University. However, these wouldn’t have kept me in research! I love working in a discipline which mixes logic and curiosity. It is a privilege to get to work each day doing something you feel contributes positively to the world and that is also fun and creative!

What do you like most about your work?
It is amazing to be challenged routinely, and to work where your goals are aligned with making a positive contribution to health outcomes, and where curiosity is embraced. It is career which is rarely dull!

How will your research make a difference in people’s lives?
Our work focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind differences between people in drug response, and applying our understanding to optimizing drug therapy, particularly in the clinical arenas of drug dependence and mental health issues. Identifying the right drug, at the right dose, for each person. Pharmacogenomics has very practical applicability which we are seeing actualized more and more, with the advances in health records and genetics.

What advice would you give to young researchers?
Learn to say “no” – whether I adhere to it or not is a different question! I think one is often so taken by an opportunity, and perhaps a little flattered to be asked, that it is easy to take on too much. Enjoy and get the most out of each stage of your career. It is often easy to focus exclusively on the end game – graduation, a paper out, a job – that you overlook how interesting and varied each of the stages are. Also, work in an area you love, are engaged in, can contribute to, and are proud of.

What’s on your iPod/CD collection/turntable?
Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, Bonobo, Fitz and the Tantrum, Florence and the Machine, Frank Turner, The Hold Steady, Hollerado, The Kinks, Lily Allen, Mike Doughty, Morcheeba, Soul Coughing

What do you like to do for fun?
Run (I know, sort of sad), read novels, go to movies, travel, play softball

Want to learn more about Tyndale’s research? Check out her Orange Chair Interview on overcoming addiction.