Cathy Angely: "I would love a career that allows me to spend a lot of time outdoors."
Cathy Angely ’10 is as comfortable donning a pair of waders and
sloshing around in a pond as she is in a traditional classroom. The Pittsburgh native
is a biology major with a minor in secondary education.
“A biology major requires a lot of lab time and outside work, which I love,” says
Angely. “After I graduate I plan to either find a teaching job at a high school
or a job using more of my biology degree,” she says.
Angely reflects on what sparked her interest in biology.
“I've always enjoyed science because it is really hands-on,” she says. “Also, my
dad is a geologist and introduced me to science and the outdoors when I was really
young, which helped influence my choice of biology as my major.”
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During her freshman year, Angely’s interest in biology and the environment bubbled
up after she took a First-Year Experience (FYE)
course with Professors Reber Dunkel, Ph.D. (sociology) and Chas. Gowan, Ph.D. (environmental studies). The course,
Repairing Nature, focused on identifying the effects of development on
stream ecosystems and the options for reversing damage. A key element of Repairing
Nature centered on understanding the community’s social organization, evaluating
changes in land use over time and assessing various stakeholders’ opinions about
the stream. As a culminating class project, students presented their plans for restoring
the stream to the Town of Ashland’s government and any interested stakeholders.
Angely appreciated the challenging and comprehensive nature of the
FYE program. “I’m glad FYE lasted the whole year because I learned so much
about science,” she says. “Professors Dunkel and Gowan kept us focused and our town
council presentation was extremely professional. I also learned to get community
buy-in for restoration projects.”
During her career at R-MC, Angely has taken January Term classes in
short stories and history. She is also
active in several on-campus organizations. “I am involved in Students for Environmental
Action (SEA),” she says. “SEA is a group that helps get students involved in the
environment; we promote on-campus recycling around campus and we’re very involved
with the town of Ashland for events such as Earth Day.” In 2009 and 2010, dozens
of volunteers, including members of SEA, helped clean and beautify the R-MC campus
and Ashland’s parks, schoolyards, streams and businesses as they paid homage to
Earth Day through the college’s Macon a Difference Day initiative.
Angely is also a member of R-MC’s Student Virginia Education Association (SVEA),
a pre-professional organization for education minors. “We meet and talk about opportunities
to help out in local schools as well as plan events such as a ‘children's corner’
in the library,” says Angely. “I joined SVEA because I may go into teaching and
this is a close-knit group of friends.” Angely’s gratitude toward Dr. Brenda Davis,
chair of the education department, is evident: “She has been a great mentor as I
have gone through classroom observations. Dr. Davis is always very encouraging to
students—and very helpful when we have questions or concerns.”
Angely spent more than a year working in R-MC Biology
Professor David Coppola's olfactory lab, performing behavioral testing on mice to
test their ability to smell under certain conditions. “We used mice to test different
aspects of the sense of smell,” says Angely. “My fellow students worked with chemical
analysis and neurophysiology; I worked with the behavioral component, researching
the effects on the functionality of the olfaction system after it has been deprived
of odors. I really enjoyed working in the lab and experiencing the research side
of biology. Before I came to R-MC, I never really thought about research, but since
working in the lab I have a better view of research and the opportunities it can
In 2009, Angely attended the Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago to present
some of her work. The prospect was thrilling—and just a little bit angst-producing.
“I attended the conference with other students and Dr. Coppola,” she says. “I was
excited to go and see what goes on at a conference, but also a little nervous to
bring in my own research and be part of such a big event.”
Angely contemplates a future brimming with possibilities. “I have been interested
in something with creek restoration ever since I took the FYE course,” she says.
“I would love a career that allows me to spend a lot of time outdoors.”
For more information on R-MC’s Biology Department, visit
For more information on R-MC’s Education Department, visit
For more information about the breadth of programs and opportunities available at
Randolph-Macon or to schedule a campus visit, contact our Admissions Office at (800)
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