A College Candid – Alli

Southern Illinois University – Carbondale
Zoology major & Chemistry minor

Why did you choose SIUC?
I chose SIUC because it is one of the top zoology schools in the nation and has a great science program in general.  I also received the Chancellor’s Scholarship, which is a complete, full ride scholarship, so it made sense financially.  Only about 20 people get the scholarship each year, and you aren’t required to be in the Honors Program to get the scholarship.  SIUC also has a great research program, which is something that I was interested in.

What is one of your favorite things about SIUC?
It isn’t a super big school – there’s a 20:1 professor to student ratio.  Once you’re past the entry-level courses, you build close relationships with your professors and peers, which is great.

What is one of your least favorite things about SIUC?
Carbondale and SIUC aren’t doing super well right now, just like a lot of places in Illinois.  There are a lot of budget cuts going on, so if you want to come to SIUC for a specific program, you should probably check out the Daily Egyptian (the student-run news organization) to see if there has been any mention of upcoming program changes.  Carbondale is also kind of sketchy in some areas.

What are some organizations you’re a part of?
I’m a member of the Equestrian Team, which is a fusion of an RSO and a club sport.  I compete, but that’s not required to be on the team, some people just help out and participate in fundraising events.  I’m also a part of the Saluki Science Ambassadors (SSA).  We represent the College of Science and volunteer with different on-campus programs.  We help teach kids about science, represent the College of Science at orientation, put on movie nights, etc.  It’s really great for any students in the College of Science.

What jobs have you had while at SIUC?
I was a tour guide for the housing department.  You work certain Saturdays or Sundays throughout the semester when there are campus visits going on.  Now, I’m a tutor at the tutoring center in Morris Library and I love it.  It’s really inclusive and ha s close-knit, community feel; everyone knows each other.  I tutor introductory science courses and I actually created a new group tutoring session for organic chemistry.  I also have a research position where I work with a professor who serves as my teacher, advisor, and mentor, but it’s currently not a paid position.

Can you talk more about your research position?
Like I said, it’s not paid, but it can turn into a paid position depending on funding and grants and things like that.  Our research is with quantifying the DNA in Poison Dart Frog tissue.  My colleagues go to Peru, look for Poison Dart Frogs, take their toes (which is fine because they grow back), and then they bring the toes back to SIUC where we extract the DNA from the tissue.

Do you have any plans to study abroad?
Yes!  I’m going to Melbourne, Australia this spring to study abroad.  SIUC actually has a great study abroad program, but it’s not well known so it isn’t super competitive.  It’s also relatively cheap – other than travel costs, it’s typically around the same price as a semester at SIUC.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in town?
Yes – I love Thai Taste.  It has great Pad Thai which is my favorite.

What do you like and dislike about Carbondale?
I like that the town isn’t super big so it’s not congested.  There are a lot of cool places to hang out if you know where to look.  Everything is pretty cheap and we have an okay mall and movie theater.  I don’t like the sketchier areas of town though.  I don’t feel like I’m going to get shot or anything, but you don’t want to be stupid about it either.  Basically, there isn’t a ton to say about Carbondale.

Any other comments about SIUC?
It’s a pretty big party school.  There’s a lot of drinking and partying.

Now to transition into talking more about Zoology, why did you choose to major in it?
I’ve loved animals since I was really little, so when I got to high school and found out about zoology, I was set on studying it in college.  Animals and science are my favorite things, and zoology is a combination of the two, so it’s perfect for me.

How is the zoology program structured at SIUC?
We have a Department of Zoology in the College of Science.  You choose from one of the five specializations: Animal Biology, Environmental Biology, Fisheries Biology and Aquatic Conservation, Pre-Veterinary Science, and Wildlife Biology and Conservation.  I’m doing Animal Biology, which is designed to prepare students for grad school and is great for research.  One cool thing about the Wildlife Biology Conservation specialization is that the courses you take include all required courses to get certified with The Wildlife Society.  Zoology is a tough program.  You can’t go out and party on a Tuesday night and be fine; you almost always will have to go to class just to pass, let alone do well in the class.  There’s a surprising amount of writing between papers and lab reports, as well as speeches, and there’s a decent amount of math and physics required for the major.  It isn’t just life science courses.

What courses have you liked?
I really liked my freshman year bio courses (BIO 200A and 200B).  Animal Behavior was super cool.  It’s anything and everything to do with different animal systems (mating, family groups, and why animals make the decisions they do).  It was basically animal psychology.  Animal Diversity is a course that everyone in zoology has to take, and this is where you figure out if you really want to do zoology if you’re on the fence about it.  You basically learn every animal and classification from sponges to elephants.

Did you have a least favorite course?
I really didn’t like ecology.  I don’t care about dirt or how water flows.  But some people love it.

What do you want to do when you graduate?
I thought I wanted to be a researcher, but I’m not completely sure now.  As a researcher, I would work in the field and actually go around the world and study animals, work in a zoo, or do some combination of the two.  I also really love teaching people about animals, so I’m considering going into education also.

How has the zoology program helped prepare you for your career?
It’s great for networking purposes.  Professors at SIUC are very active in their research areas, so they know people in various organizations and universities and can help you make beneficial connections.  The research I’ve done before has been great, I just wish I had gotten into it sooner so I could be farther along (I didn’t start until the end of my sophomore year).  For anyone who is wondering, to get a research position you literally just email a professor you want to work with, ask about their research, and ask if they have a position open.

Do you know if you will go to grad school?
If I go into research, I would.  To choose a grad school, I would figure out what area I want to specialize in, figure out what professors in the nation are currently doing research in that area, and then apply to the schools where those professors are.


Interested in sharing your college story in a College Candid?  Send me an email at JessicaAckley7@gmail.com with your university and major!


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