An Interview with Cassie Urquhart

Current Job: Graduate Research Assistant at University of Tennessee, KnoxvilleCassie

Scientific Discipline/Field:  Medical and Veterinary Entomology

Country: USA

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): L & Q

Website? Twitter, Linkedin

What does your job involve?

I do research on insects and sometimes ticks that transmit pathogens to humans and animals. I’ve worked with mosquitoes, house flies, horse flies, and ticks. I’ve collaborated on projects involving La Crosse virus, West Nile virus, Avian Malaria, and Canine Heartworm and I’ll be soon collaborating on a project involving Rana virus. I do field work collecting mosquitoes and other insects in the summers and a lot of molecular screening in the off-season.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

I was a natural resources major with a minor in entomology as an undergrad. I also held various internships, lab tech positions, and volunteer positions in different entomology labs.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Not at all. I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was a small child.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

Most of the reactions from colleagues have been neutral to positive. I did have one guy who worked with me, very briefly, say he thought people were nice to me despite my orientation because I “don’t look gay”. I can’t say I was a huge fan of that comment.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?

My mom. She worked 80 hours a week at two jobs to keep my sister and I in a good school and she still had time to make me do my homework over and over again until it was perfect. Otherwise, I thought E.O. Wilson and later (because you always learn about the women later) Edith Marion Patch were pretty cool.

What are your plans for the future?

To do a PhD and continue a career in Medical entomology.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just that my experience in Tennessee has been a lot more positive than I was lead to believe when I lived in Massachusetts. My message to queers interested in, but a little nervous about the south would be this: While there are some problems, it is not a death trap and you don’t need to hide all the time if you go to school or work down here. I make a conscious effort to be out as much as possible and have had very few negative reactions. If you’re willing to be a bit brave and open, you can find some really good people. Plus, there are so many salamanders, it’s crazy. Fear of homophobia should not be keeping other queers from enjoying all the adorable salamanders.

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