Catherine Wiegand, Class of December 2017

  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Photo of Cathy Wiegand

Get out and try new things.

I discovered my interest in biology in high school – the subject was so interesting to me, and it just came easy. But, it was the introductory course in Integrative Biology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that helped me finalize my major choice. I found that I liked the big-picture perspective that it offered, particularly when I had the opportunity to study ecology and explore interactions across ecosystems.

My experiences at Illinois helped me to explore interesting directions I can take with my biology degree. I participated in the pre-veterinary club, shadowed professionals in the small animal ER at the vet school, and supported research for two years in a professor’s laboratory. In the research role, I helped a team examine the changes in the size of mosquito populations after a change in storm drains in a region of Illinois. I enjoyed getting to know people in each of these environments, and discovering that there were so many potential career paths that I never realized existed.

In the summer before I graduated, I was selected as a Women in Science Intern in the dinosaur collection at The Field Museum. The museum has 10 internships each year – 5 for undergraduates and 5 for high school students. Then, when I graduated a semester early in December, I emailed my supervisor and asked if I could return to the internship while I figured out my next steps after college. They invited me back to work with several of the other fossil collections. During that time, they told me about an opening for a full-time position as a Collections Assistant and recommended that I apply. And, I landed the job! Now I am helping with the Invertebrate Fossil collection, cataloging, reorganizing, and updating records into new electronic formats. Next, we’ll be working on the Paleobotany Collection, which is fossilized plants.

For current Illinois students, my advice is to get out and try new things. Even if you are not sure if it will work out, put yourself out there and apply for it. That’s how I got my job – just going for it! If a class sounds interesting, take it. If an internship sounds fun, apply for it. It’s college. This is your chance to try things you never had a chance to do before. Don’t miss that opportunity.

(Last Updated: March 2019)