Founding Your Path: An Interview with Dr. Graham Coop

Welcome back, Aggies! Winter quarter is now in full swing, bringing tons of rain along with it. As we tend to spend a bit more time indoors in winter, it is often a great time for planning ahead and reflecting on the opportunities and paths before us. In our reflecting, it is likely that many of us will experience some frustration and uncertainty in  choosing career and life paths; whether it be about our academics, research, internships, or other long-term plans. While the internet might help in building a pros and cons list (the logical side of decision making), ultimately we have to choose our paths from our heart (what FEELS right). In order to shed some light on the prospect of choosing our own paths, I decided to interview Dr. Graham Coop, a Professor from the Center for Population Biology here at Davis. I chose to interview Dr. Coop in an attempt to capture the journey that led him to a career that he is clearly passionate about (If you have the opportunity to take one of his evolution/genetics classes, you’ll see what I mean).

Dr. Graham Coop

I asked Dr. Coop to start with his high school years, inquiring about what interests he had back then. To my surprise, Dr. Coop replied, “I didn’t particularly like what we’d call ‘secondary school’ in the UK. I wasn’t particularly good at it… and I wasn’t even totally sure I was going to go to university. I didn’t get particularly good grades and I barely made it into my safety school.” In the end however, he attended the University of Reading and decided to study physics.


In reflecting upon his undergraduate years and transition to college, Dr. Coop continued, “I think it was nice for me to be somewhere different … there are points in your life where you get to change the sort of groups of people you’re hanging out with, and you sort of move to a group of people who don’t know you and don’t have expectations of you … that was really important for me.” While the overall undergraduate experience seemed positive, Dr. Coop distinctly remembered struggling during his first year of his undergraduate experience.  At this point, he and I shared experiences regarding the difficulties that come along with the first year adjustment period. Around the end of his first year, he met with a faculty mentor, where he resolved to try working harder in his academics. In describing this first major turning point, Dr. Coop exclaimed,  “I don’t know what happened, but something clicked and I started to do better.” By graduation, he had one of the highest marks in his class.

During his undergraduate years, he had initially wanted to become a Physicist, though in hindsight, Coop admits to not fully realizing what all a career as a Physicist would entail. While doing some soul searching, he had a conversation about career paths with one of his physics professors. Coop expressed having interest in mathematics and computers, but he was not certain in which career path he could apply these skills to. It was in talking to his professor that Coop slightly changed course as he began considering the realm of biology. As a result of his aptitudes, the professor recommended that he look into mathematical biology, as there are so many complex problems within biology that require mathematical analysis in order to solve them.

That discussion with his physics professor had one of the most profound impacts on his career.  As Dr. Coop recalled, “That was just really wonderful advice and something which really changed the direction I was going in when I’d never really thought about it before.”  Having already been intrigued by biological concepts, such as evolution, Coop became excited to continue developing new skills and apply the knowledge he gained in his undergraduate studies. He went on to receive his PhD in Statistical Genetics at the University of Oxford; then he continued as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago in Human Genetics. From there, he was accepted as a professor here at UC Davis.

In reflecting upon his story, it was clear to see how some of the most important moments of growth occurred with the help of university faculty and professors. Coop expressed how important it was for him to talk with people who helped him see where he could apply his skills and interests. When I asked Dr. Coop what advice he had for students after reflecting back on his own experiences, he wanted to encourage students to “think broadly” about what they want to do, be open to different paths that come their way, and to take advantage of diverse or unexpected opportunities. People often get caught up with having a linear academic plan leading to a precise career, not wanting to stray from their intended path or explore other routes. Coop explained that there are numerous ways for people to create fulfilling journeys and exciting career opportunities to apply their diverse skills. Undoubtedly, having  an open mind was an integral component in each step of the way along his life journey.

When I asked for any final words of wisdom he had for Davis undergraduates, he paused for a moment and stated the following:

“Try to be brave about trying new things when you’re at university … It’s a good time to learn to push yourself and figure out where your limits are. You have the room to actually explore what you want to do … It’s a really valuable time to do that. You’ll probably find that your comfort zone is a lot broader than you think it is when you actually start stepping outside of it.”

One of the fundamental messages I took from my interview with Dr. Coop was about how nonlinear and nonconventional our paths truly are. I hope that this interview offers you a unique perspective, helps you to embrace some of the change and uncertainty of your college years, and inspires you to take chances as you establish your own path.

Petra Silverman
BASC Peer Advisor
4th Year – Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity + Spanish major



Career Spotlight: Military Medicine

Are you interested in medicine, but would rather spend more time with your patients than with your paperwork? Does one part of you want to travel the world, but the other part just wants to start your medical career as soon as possible? Then military medicine may be the ideal path for you to have it all and more. Two popular ways of entering military medicine are through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) School of Medicine.

Image result for usns comfort and mercy            Image result for military medicine

Major Differences Between HPSP & USUHS:

Finance: Both the HPSP and USUHS cover the full cost of medical school including tuition and other associated mandatory fees. Beyond that, each has additional financial perks. (see websites below)

HPSP: Apply for either a 3 or 4 year scholarship (through the Navy, Army, or Air Force) independent of medical school applications. The scholarship covers tuition and required fees at any accredited medical school in the United States or Puerto Rico. This option offers more flexibility in terms of choosing where you want to spend the next four years.

  • A monthly stipend of approximately $2,200/month for cost of living on top of an initial $20,000 sign-on bonus.

USUHS: Applying to USUHS is like applying to any other medical school through AMCAS, but there is no fee for secondary applications and no tuition costs. The school is located in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • While enrolled, students are paid the equivalent of a Second Lieutenant (approximately $63,000/year).

Service Obligation: Upon graduation, students earn an officer rank of O-3.

HPSP: Service obligation is year-for-year depending on how long you receive the scholarship, in addition to one 45 day Active Duty Tour per academic year, one of which is a 5 week Officer Development School (details vary depending on branch).

USUHS: Service obligation is a minimum of 7 years. All incoming students attend a 4 to 6 week, branch-specific officer orientation program to learn about officer responsibilities and military customs, prior to matriculation.

Major Benefits of Military Medicine:

See the World: A common piece of advice given to pre-med students is to take time to travel before enrolling into medical school because there won’t be time for a long time afterwards. As a military physician, you can travel the world as part of your job and participate in international humanitarian missions. Even during vacations, military physicians have access to low-cost, on-base lodging around the world.

Residency: More and more seats in medical schools are opening, but additional residency spots are not opening at the same rate. As a result, many newly-graduated medical students struggle to get a residency spot in their top choice specialty (Robeznieks). Each of the military branches offer a wide variety of specialties in addition to the option of completing a civilian residency, thus increasing the available residency opportunities for military physicians.

Logistics/Patient Care: Civilian medicine is not simply patient-doctor interactions. It comes with a long list of logistics relating to business and finance including equipment and office management, malpractice insurance, endless stacks of paperwork, and more. Military medicine minimizes these miscellaneous responsibilities in order to maximize time spent with working with patients in order to provide the best possible care available. (see websites below)

Intrinsic Reward: In my opinion, working with military families on a military base last summer was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had so far in my college career and has shifted the direction of my own career goals. There is definitely a unique feeling of pride and respect that comes from helping the people who serve our country and their families who sacrifice a lot in their own way.

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Military healthcare is not limited to Medical Corps. There are also programs for Nurse Corps, Dental Corps, and more. Each branch has minor differences in the programs and work environments, so I encourage you to look further into the Navy, Army, and Air Force to explore which branch or program might work for you.

For more information, contact your local recruiter and check out the respective websites below:



Air Force:


Works Cited:

Robeznieks, Andis. “Match Day nears, with worries there still aren’t enough residency slots.” Modern Healthcare. 18 March 2015. Web. <>.

Amanda Dao
3rd Year Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior Major; Art History Minor
BASC Peer Advisor

Career Spotlight: EMT/Paramedic

Just turning on your favorite TV shows and movies, you’ve probably seen men and women in uniform rushing to the scene of an accident or disaster. They are usually one of the first to respond and are in charge of keeping patients alive and deciding the best course of action for their care. If you’re interested in applying your biology knowledge into a fast-paced, clinical environment, then being an EMT/paramedic may be a wonderful option for you.

What is the difference between an EMT and a paramedic? There are multiple levels of certification in emergency medical services (EMS). The most common type are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), sometimes referred to as EMT-Basics. They learn essential life-saving skills that make up the foundation for all other levels of providers. The responsibilities of EMT-Basics vary within each state, but general skills include CPR, treating wounds, delivering babies, providing oxygen, performing patient assessments, administering glucose for diabetics, and helping treat asthma attacks or allergic reactions. Many people use their EMT education/experience as a stepping stone for careers as paramedics, doctors, nurses and firefighters.

A paramedic is the highest level of EMT certification. They provide more advanced emergency medical care and have higher knowledge in topics such as anatomy and physiology, cardiology, medications, and medical procedures. They are trained to perform skills such as administering medications, providing IV fluids, providing advanced airway management for patients, and learning to resuscitate and support patients with significant problems such as heart attacks and traumas.

Paramedics are often in charge of a rescue team and have the most decision making power. As a result, paramedics need strong leadership skills and critical decision making skills, as well as the ability to perform complex-life saving actions in stressful and time-sensitive situations.

Work Setting: There is a wide variety of career opportunities for EMTs and paramedics including:

  • Ambulance services
  • Fire departments
  • Rural/wilderness teams
  • Urban/industrial settings
  • Volunteering

Training and certification: Training to become an EMT-Basic usually takes about six months, completing about 120-150 hours of training. They usually consist of lectures, hands-on skills training, and clinical/field internships. After training, you must pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) EMT certification exam or state licensing exam. The UC Davis Fire Department offers a 14-week EMT-Basic training course. You may also find other training courses at your local community college or through private companies, such as OnSite Medical Service.

You must be an EMT to be eligible to become a paramedic. Most programs require you to have worked at least 6 months as an EMT. Additional training to be a paramedic usually takes about 2-2.5 years for a total of 1,200-1,800 hours. After training, you must pass the NREMT Paramedic certification exam. Many community colleges and state schools offer two-year paramedic courses.

Work hours and Salary: Most EMTs and paramedics work full time, some with 12- or 24-hour shifts. They may work overnight and on weekends because they must be available for emergencies. The average salary in California is $18 per hour or $37,410 per year. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Training and working as an EMT takes hard work, dedication, leadership skills, and time management. One of our own peers, Brenda Garibay, trained as an EMT as an undergrad. According to her, “It was very intense and took up a lot of my time, but the amount of clinical experience I gained was all worth it. The material and training gave me a clearer perspective on how my coursework applies to the real world.”

For more information on how to become a paramedic, visit:

Shiela Angulo
4th Year Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Class of 2017
BASC Peer Advisor

Career Spotlight: Genetic Counseling

genetic_counseling1Do you long for a career in which you consistently grow as a scientist and are able to exercise your interpersonal communication skills? Genetic Counseling addresses these needs and more. Let’s break it down:

What are Genetic Counselors?
Genetic Counselors are people who create a bridge between genetic disease and understanding. At times, patients are told that they are at risk for a genetic disease or that they are carriers of a disease. People in these situations can meet with a Genetic Counselor to discuss what the disease is and how it occurred. Additionally, the Genetic Counselor will asses the risk of passing on the genetic disease and provide patients with the tools necessary to cope with it.

What do Genetic Counselors do?
Genetic Counselors have a diverse work life. Of course, the main component of the job is to counseling2meet with patients in counseling sessions. However, they must also generate pedigrees, intake family history, write letters for physicians, and sometimes even compile all of a patients past medical history (which can be extensive for people with genetic disorders). Depending on where they work, they can order genetic testing and analyze data such as karyotypes and DNA microarrays.

Where do Genetic Counselors work?
Due to the rapid growth of the field of Genetics, Genetic Counselors are seen working in many different settings. They work in laboratories, hospitals, research centers, and even in marketing for new genetic testing models.

How do you become a Genetic Counselor?

Undergraduate degree- You must first obtain an undergraduate degree from a four year institution. Typically students major in the Biological Sciences or Psychology if they are interested in this field. However, as long as you meet the prerequisites for graduate school, you are free to major in whatever interests you the most. General prerequisites for Genetic Counseling programs are as follows:

Introductory Genetics
Organic Chemistry

**these requirements are a broad overview of what schools typically require but they may vary depending on the program

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)- In order to apply to graduate programs you must complete the GRE. This exam is offered multiple times a year and covers verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

Graduate programs in Genetic Counseling- You can apply to graduate programs during your final year as an undergraduate, or you can wait until after you graduate. Health Professions Advising (HPA) is a great resource for learning more about applying to graduate schools and getting help along the way. It is recommended that you do a bit of research before meeting with an HPA adviser in order to make the session more efficient. You can begin by searching the different programs available and identifying what you personally prefer for graduate school.

Board Certification- The last step before being able to work as a Genetic Counselor is to receive board certification! You become certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. From what I have heard, the exam is quite extensive and requires months of studying. The good news is that it is the final step and once you pass you can officially begin your career! (click the link in the text to read more about the exam!)

If words aren’t enough to convince you to at least consider Genetic Counseling, maybe the numbers are:

Median Pay- $56,800 per year
Number of Jobs- 2,100
Job Outlook- 41% growth
Employment Change- 900 more jobs
***These stats are taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reflect information for the year 2012

This was a brief synopsis of Genetic Counseling. There is a lot more to explore and every program is different. I recommend that you get in touch with a Genetic Counselor to discuss the career further if you are interested. Thanks to the internet, I was able to reach out to many Genetic Counselors via the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

Take Care,
Daiana Bucio
3rd year GGN Major
BASC peer adviser





Career Spotlight: Anatomist

Do you enjoy studying the form and structure of animal bodies?  Are you interested in performing systematic observations and dissections of muscles, tissues, and organs? Where you fascinated with the make up of the human body when you took CHA 101/EXB 106? If so, a career as an Anatomist may be a great fit!

What is an Anatomist?

According to, an Anatomist is someone who specializes in the body structure of organisms, and has played an important role in the research and discovery of organisms and their function for centuries. A career as an Anatomist can be very rewarding, because it allows you to explore what is normally hidden from view and discover how structure relates to function. There are a variety of different systems Anatomists can specialize in depending on their interests. Some examples of these include the endocrine system, lymphatic system, cardiovascular system, and skeletal system.

Anatomists also specialize in different species other than the human body depending on their field of work. Because the structures of most mammalian bodies have many similarities, Anatomists will typically draw inferences from existing knowledge to discover new purposes for the existing structure of species and their organs.

The following is a list of typical tasks an Anatomist regularly performs:

  • Examine large organs and organ systems through dissection
  • Examine smaller structures such as tissues and cells using a microscope
  • Compare structures across different species
  • Utilize knowledge on the structural form of organisms to solve medical problems

What type of education do Anatomists have?

An Anatomist will typically have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Chemistry, or any related field to biological, physical, or behavioral science. A masters degree in Anatomy is required to then work in a laboratory or for a private company. Most Anatomists also go on to earn a Doctoral degree to get a research or teaching position at a university or medical school.

Where do Anatomists work?

There are many different areas Anatomists can work. Most Anatomists either teach or do research in universities or medical centers where they help train scientists or various health care workers such as physicians, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists. Others may be employed by private companies, governmental agencies, or scientific publishing firms. Anatomists therefore spend most of their time in laboratories or class rooms, and must be flexible with working alone or as part of a team.


Salary depends on the education of the Anatomist, and according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics the average pay is $75,160, and there is an expected 13% increase in employment.

Additional Resources:

There are various Graduate Programs in Anatomy across the country. You can explore these options to choose a program that best fits your interests and career goals. Here is a summary of the resources used in this blog to help you gather more information on becoming an Anatomist:

Hopefully this spotlight on becoming an Anatomist has peaked your interest or helped you identify some of your career goals. Good luck!

Zoe Lim
BASC Peer Adviser
Biological Sciences Major


Career Spotlight: Lawyer

Do you enjoy negotiating with others, defending your opinions, and rationalizing through difficult situations? Are you quick on your feet and able to analyze situations with a critical eye? If so, a career in law may be a good fit for you. As a science major, pursuing a law degree may be off the beaten path, but it is a great opportunity to enter into a career where your degree in science is viewed as a unique asset.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers “advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes.”  Job opportunities for lawyers is expected to grow 10% from 2012 to 2020, which is about average for most occupations. A lawyer offers advice and counsels clients on legal rights and obligations, as well as aids in interpreting the law. Researching precedents (earlier interpretations of the law and the history of previous judicial decisions) makes up much of a lawyer’s work, because doing so is necessary in order to offer sound advice and make informed decisions. There are many types of law that one can specialize in. As written by the State Bar of California, these include:

  • Criminal Law
  • Family Law
  • Taxation Law
  • Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law
  • Environmental Law *
  • Patent Law *



Preparing for Law School

Most law schools require a Bachelor’s degree. As with medical schools, law schools accept students with a wide range of majors. Despite this fact, most pre-law students generally major in economics, political science, or history. A major in science can therefore be uniquely beneficial. Having a science background gives students an upper edge in that they have working knowledge of scientific processes and have been taught to think critically, which is a very important aspect of practicing law. Unlike other professional schools, most law schools do not have pre requisite requirements, but be sure to research specific law schools you are interested in to check on this.  You can read more about how to prepare for law school, as well as find help attaining internships to get experience, by visiting the Internship and Career Center (ICC).

Aside from a Bachelor’s degree, law schools require taking the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). The LSAT consists of five 35 multiple choice questions and measures reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. Preparing for the LSAT is an essential part of preparing for law school, as law school admissions look at applicant’s GPA and LSAT scores as primary factors when admitting students.

After law school, students must pass a licensing exam, commonly known as “the bar,” in order to practice law.

Common Specializations in Law for Science Majors

There are a variety of common specialties of law that are applicable to students with a Bachelor’s degree in science. An example of one of these specialties is Patent Law.  Patent law involves working in areas of medical malpractice, medical or pharmaceutical patents, and intellectual property of medical or biological products. All of these specialties require a working knowledge of science and technology. According to, patent law is the most common specialty that students with a science background choose to pursue.  Patent lawyers specialize in an area of law protecting the rights of new inventions. Applying for a patent is a lengthy process that requires the expertise of a patent lawyer who is well equipped and trained to interpret the law, provide legal documentation, and critically analyze new biological products.

Another common specialization for students with a science background is Environmental Law. Environmental lawyers specialize in regulations, laws, and disputes relating to the environment. Environmental lawyers help increase awareness on climate change, alternative energy sources, and other sustainability issues. According to the Environmental Law Institute, the need for environmental legal expertise is expected to grow in the coming years due to an increase in legal legislation involving protecting the environment from greenhouse gases and global warming.

Both patent lawyers and environmental lawyers typically have a Bachelor’s degree in one of the following: chemistry, biology, physics, or electrical, civil, or biomechanical engineering.

Lawyers are some of the most educated and highly compensated professionals in the United States. The median annual pay rate for lawyers in 2014 was $130, 530. Considering a career in law may be a great option if you are passionate about the sciences and interested in legal rights and how they affect society.

Summary of Resources

U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics: A governmental agency that collects, processes and analyzes labor statistical data for the American public.

State Bar of California: This website offers information for both current and future lawyers on how to best practice law as well as advance their careers.

Law School Admissions Test: Here you will find all information on how to register and prepare for the LSAT. This website also  breaks down how to understand your LSAT score, and details the steps of applying to Law School.

Environmental Law Institute: The mission of this institute is to offer innovative law and policy solutions regarding how best to improve the environment.



Zoe Lim
BASC Peer Adviser


Nursing: Master’s, Associate’s & Bachelor’s Degrees

Are you interested in teaching people to stay healthy and manage their illnesses? Are you interested in consulting with various health professionals to help the well-being of a patient? If you answered yes, then you may be a Nurse in the making!

There are various types of nurses with different credentials. The first form of nursing is a general Registered Nurse (RN). To become a Registered Nurse, a master’s degree is not required. There are three paths to become a Registered Nurse:

1. Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN)

2. Associate’s degree in nursing (ADN)

3. Diploma from a nursing program.

In addition to a general Registered Nurse there are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), which include Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners (NP). These three different specialties require a master’s degree from an accredited program.

1. A Nurse Anesthetist assists before, during, and after surgical procedures. They practice in every type of setting in which anesthesia is delivered. This can range for hospitals, dentists’ offices, to plastic surgeon’s clinics.

2. A Nurse Midwife mainly provides care for women, which includes gynecological exams, family planning services, prenatal care, and attendance during deliveries.

3.  Nurse Practitioners provide advanced nursing services to patients. An NP is an advanced practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who completed coursework and clinical education beyond that of a general registered nurse.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) and general Registered Nurses work in similar environments. Nurses working in schools or physician’s offices tend to work normal business hours, but nurses working in hospitals, which provide round-the-clock patient care, may work nights, weekends, and holidays.images

Many nurses are known for their communication skills and compassion. Nurses are known for their personal role with patients because a patient is typically with the same nurse throughout his or her visit at the hospital. Learning another language can be beneficial in this line of work because communicating with various individuals is an important part of being a nurse. Being able to learn languages in classes also helps future nurses become more aware of the different practices of various cultures. Many nursing programs require prerequisites before entering the program, such as human physiology,  general science, or communication courses. For specific information on applying to nursing programs please see additional resources.  Nursing is an overall self-fulfilling career if you are looking to heal and help others.

Additional Resources: – Occupational Outlook Handbook for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners & Registered Nurses

UC Davis Internship and Career Center

Pre-Nursing Preparation at UC Davis

Quick Stats

Entry-Level Education:

Registered Nurse:

  •  Associate’ Degree
  •  Bachelor’s Degree
  • Diploma from approved nursing program

(Must pass the National Council Licensure Examination)

Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthetist, & Nurse Midwife:

  • Master’s Degree

(Must be a registered nurse and pass a national certification exam)

UC Davis majors which may be of interest but are not required:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Human development
  • Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior

UC Davis minors which may be of interest but are not required:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Human Development
  • Spanish

Median Pay (as of 2012):

  • Registered Nurse (AA/BA): $65,470 per year /$31.48 per hour
  • Nurse Practitioner (MA): $96,460 per year /$46.37 per hour