Undergraduate Spotlight: Kacy Sager
A native of Marietta, Georgia and a 2004 graduate of Walton High School, Kacy Sager is a freshman psychology major at Georgia Tech. After her high school graduation, Sager spent the summer following her lifelong interest in animals by working fifty–hour weeks at the Animal Medical Care Center in Marietta. While her longtime goal had been veterinary school, the combined impact of a newspaper article on the Georgia Tech Center for Conservation and Behavior and a positive experience in the School of Psychology redirected Sager's focus from veterinary medicine to psychology and the study of animal behavior. In February 2005, she took time out of a busy semester to tell us about her expectations and experiences.
How did you get involved with undergraduate research at the Center?
"I decided to come to Georgia Tech because of a newspaper article I read about the Center for Conservation and Behavior. I contacted Dr. Maple to see if this was something I could become involved in, and we set up a meeting. He told me I could start undergraduate research as early as my freshman year."
What changed your ideas about your career goals?
"I took Introduction to Psychology with Dr. Randall Engle last semester, and I'm actually getting really excited about my psychology major. I'm now more interested in animal behavior and animal behavior research than in medicine. When I read the article about the Center, it was the first time I considered a path other than going to UGA, majoring in pre-vet, and continuing on to vet school. I had no idea that anything like the Center even existed, or that people even studied animal behavior."
Has your high school coursework been helpful to you so far?
"Psychology in high school didn't even begin to scratch the surface of what I learned in Intro to Psychology here! I actually found that Anatomy helped me be more successful in that course. I'm also hoping that AP Statistics will finally pay off when I'm examining data."
What type of research will you be doing, and how did you prepare?
"Last semester I did a lot of reading. Dr. Maple assigned research articles on animal behavior and a few articles and books on zoos. This semester I'll be working with Suma Mallavarapu
What challenges do you expect to face as an undergraduate?
"I'm expecting to feel a little out of my league working with all of the graduate students, but hopefully that will change as I gain more experience. It will also be difficult to fit my work at the Zoo in with my regular class schedule, so I'll probably end up spending a lot of time there on the weekends, as well as weekdays."
How will you expand this experience into a career?
"Up until a few months ago, I was convinced that I would go on to vet school after Tech, probably at the University of Georgia. I always really wanted to be a veterinarian in a zoo, but now I'm much more interested in animals from the behavioral research side. I'm interested in South or Central America, and I'm getting a minor in Spanish, so the undergraduate work I'm starting now at the Center is really going to help me get some experience I can use to pursue animal behavior as a career."