On course, with an open mind

When she was little, Courtney Massey loved to play with animals. She still does. Courtney likes to spend her free time with Mushu. Mushu is a rescue dog.
Love for animals inspired Courtney to go for biology and biochemistry when it came to declare her majors; she wanted to “learn more about animals and how they work.”
Courtney also wanted to study at a university where she would be “in classes of 20 people rather than classes of 200” so that she could get much more out of her classes, especially related to her majors.
The University of Northern Iowa was that — and much more.
“I have had the opportunity to study abroad twice, get involved in undergraduate research, be a leader in student organizations, and volunteer with many local groups,” Courtney says. “My UNI experience has been amazing so far.”
Her undergraduate coursework has been diverse and hands-on while her professors are all “passionate about what they teach and it clearly translates into the quality of the course.”
Courtney is currently doing research with Professor James Demastes.
The study is about “Chewing Lice on Pocket Gophers and their range expansion along a stretch of Rio Grande,” she says.
However, her favorite course, thus far, has been “Intro to Astro-Science.”
“It was a special lecture course that featured numerous guest speakers from NASA and covered everything from the Big Bang to current politics that NASA faces,” she recounts.
Courtney is a Student Fellow at the UNI Conservation Corps, currently working on a public education campaign across Iowa to discourage the use of pesticides.
“The campaign is in its early stages,” she says. “It is all about spreading awareness on the impact pesticides can have and dispelling the misconception that someone should be using pesticides to keep their lawn perfect.”
She is also a peer advisor at the UNI Study Abroad Center.
Moreover, Courtney, who plans to go into conservation or wildlife biology once she graduates from UNI, is a volunteer at Blackhawk Wildlife Rehabilitation.
“I primarily help care for the animals and assist with miscellaneous tasks around the property,” she says. “In my time there I have learned how to care for many different animals.”
Besides, Courtney is a UNI STEM Ambassador, which helped her connect with other STEM fields. “I have learned a lot about computer science and textiles thanks to my time working with fellow ambassadors,” she says.
STEM, she believes, offers many different paths to pursue. So, her advice for students interested in STEM is: “Keep an open mind.”
“Make sure you are giving yourself a chance to explore many different fields before you settle on a path,” she adds.

Mir Ashfaquzzaman, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant