Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Day in the Life of a Zoology Major at SIU

Simeon Hardley
Liz Forassiepi takes down notes from a lecture while enjoying the outdoor weather Jan. 26, 2024 in Carbondale, Illinois.

Elizabeth Forassiepi drags herself out of bed on a foggy January morning to prepare for the day

To wake herself up, she throws on her headphones, blasts “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen, and heads to the gym for a quick adrenaline pump. 

“It’s like my coffee in the morning,” Forassiepi said. 


After that, she will spend the morning studying until her first class at 11 am. 

“We have a lot of broad classes, just like basic evolution but then we have other classes such as myology [muscles], herpetology [amphibians and reptiles], and entomology [insects]. I was in that one last semester, which is focused on bugs so we do a lot of detailed studies on certain… evolution that might be very broad,” Forassiepi said. “Mammalogy, for example, is more like just studying mammals so we’ll do things in a lab, like practicing identifying specimens, learning taxonomy, learning where they came from and how they’re related to each other.”




This semester Forassiepi has four classes, chemistry is the study of chemical elements and how they interact with each other and the world around them;  Earth through time, which is a geology course that focuses on the history of life on Earth from the earliest known organisms to dinosaurs, mammoths, and humans; intro to marine biology which centers around learning about ocean-dwelling organisms and their ecosystem; and lastly, developmental biology – the study of how organisms develop both before and after birth and the cellular processes involved. 


“On our marine biology class trip to Mississippi, my class got to take a ship out to an island to collect some specimens. Because our ship was pretty large and couldn’t get close to shore, we had to get a raft to get to the island,” Forassiepi said. 

“When we did get on the raft to head towards the island (which was about one and a half miles out), the engine on the motor died, leaving us stranded while still being a mile from shore so we had no choice but to paddle the rest of the way and eventually one of the crew members got into the water and started pulling the raft behind him. Once we got to shore, the captain swam from the ship to the island with a toolbox to repair the raft’s motor. But when it was time for us to get off the island, the raft’s engine broke yet again, and we had to flag down some vacationers on a pontoon boat to give us all a lift back to our ship,” she said.

Forassiepi’s love for studying different animals and their evolution is evident from the variety of classes she has taken over the years. With a focus on hands-on learning, her classes involve detailed studies and practical sessions that help her gain a deeper understanding of the concepts. 

“How I got more involved in this major was as I got older and started learning about environmentalism and global warming, climate change, all the things that were threatening the animals, then I was like, ‘yeah, no, definitely that’s what I need to be doing,’ because there’s not a lot of people who see that stuff and want to do something about it,” she said.

Forassiepi remains determined to complete her degree and pursue her passion for learning about the natural world.



“Yeah, I mean, technically, I am a super senior, so this is my fifth year here because COVID kind of threw off my graduation plans but yeah, so I’ll be graduating in May,” Forassiepi said.

Her classes this semester are more focused on lab work and science, rather than a traditional classroom setting.

“I feel like the data and analysis, looking at a table and being able to understand what you’re reading is one of the most important skills in this major,” Forassiepi said.

At SIU, the biology department offers a range of classes that cater to students with varying interests. The department also offers hands-on lab sessions that help students identify specimens and understand how different species are related to each other.

“They’re very good within SIU at incorporating what we’ve been learning in class with our lab. So whenever we’re doing hands-on stuff, they will be walking us through, like, ‘Okay, remember what we talked about in class is what you’re seeing now in front of you.’ So that way, it’s more than just hearing it. You get to sit down and work with the stuff and get a better understanding of it,” Forassiepi said.

She is an ambitious individual who is focused on achieving her professional goals. Recently, she has been thinking deeply about the type of career path she wants to pursue.

“I always wanted to do animal training, like dolphins or something in that area but since coming to college I feel I might want to do wildlife biology, something where I’m in the field helping with conservation, but also working hands-on with animals,” Forassiepi said. 

Her passion and love for all animals goes beyond just her career. Back at home, she has some critters of her own. 

“I have a crested gecko named Pogo, a tarantula and I have a dog. I used to have a snake. The tarantula’s name is Artie. Artemis, but I call her Artie, and then my dog is Sadie,” Forassiepi said.

As an aspiring zoologist, Forassiepi is committed to studying the behavior, anatomy and physiology of animals. She believes that by gaining a deeper understanding of these creatures, we can develop more effective methods for conserving and protecting them. Forassiepi’s degree path in zoology has given her the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue her career goals and she is excited to see where her journey will take her.

“SIU does have a great program for it [zoology]. So, I would just say to anybody who’s considering it, give it a try. You know, it’s so much fun. It’s so worth it. It’s hard work, but you know, it’s very fulfilling,” Forassiepi said. 


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