Dr. Katy Greenwald
Eastern Michigan University
I grew up being “the kid who loved animals,” especially the slimy and scaly ones—I was always trying to bring home snakes, frogs, and turtles.
As is probably true for many kids like me, the adults around me responded by telling me that I should be a veterinarian, so that was my plan.
I worked in vet clinics in high school and college, and was part of the pre-vet student group.
When I was a junior in college, though, I got involved in undergraduate research. That experience changed my direction. I loved everything about the process—reading the literature, collecting and analyzing the data, and ultimately writing up my work for publication. I also got to know a number of the grad students in the program where I was an undergrad during this time. It opened my eyes to grad school as a possibility that existed! (You mean there are other career options for folks who love animals?!)
I ended up taking a year off after college. I worked as a research assistant for several ecological, conservation-oriented projects—spiders in Maine, bluebirds in California, and shorebirds in Massachusetts. This cemented my desire to keep working with animals in natural spaces, and to conduct research focused on how to mitigate human impacts on their habitat and populations.
I applied to grad school and landed at Ohio State University, where I got my PhD in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology. Going back to my “slimy and scaly” roots, my dissertation focused on how landscape change (e.g., development, agriculture) impacts salamander populations. Despite starting grad school with only research in mind, during this time I discovered a love of teaching as well.
I’m now a Biology Professor at Eastern Michigan University. My job is a wonderful mix of research and teaching, and I now get to work with undergraduate researchers in my own lab. I hope that for some of them it is as transformative an experience as it was for me.