Young Alum of the Month: Daniel McCoy

Daniel McCoy
Title and Company: 
Plant Health Safeguarding Specialist (Federal Officer) at United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ)
Cornelia, GA
Major and Graduation Date: 
Entomology, December 2008
Major Job/Position Responsibilities: 

I ensure that individuals, companies, universities, and other government entities are compliant with Federal Regulations in order to protect agricultural and natural resources from foreign plant pests.  I also act as an Authorized Certification Official (ACO) which inspects plant and plant products that are being exported to foreign countries to facilitate trade by ensuring that we are not spreading plant pests or diseases to these countries.  Finally, I specialize in trapping, sampling, and surveying for invasive plant pests to detect or better understand their range within the United States.

What you like most about your job/position: 

There are two things that I find very rewarding about my position.  The first is that many of the daily activities I perform require multiple steps and communication at many levels throughout my agency, so when everything comes together I get the same satisfaction as one would get when completing a difficult puzzle.  Secondly, I enjoy knowing that at the end of the day, my job helps protect the multi-billion dollar agriculture, tourism, and timber industries.

What advice would you give to current students: 

There are three things that I think are vital to success in college and business.  Firstly, keep an open mind.  I came to Iowa State to pursue a degree in Political Science, but I took the two classes mentioned above to fulfill a science requirement and it changed my life.  I hated insects before taking these classes but afterwards I found insects fascinating and well worth studying further.  Never think that you have to stay on a certain path or course to be successful.


Secondly, get as much experience as you possibly can.  Education is extremely important these days, but just as equally important is real-life experience in your field of study.  Take on internships or summer jobs that can give you practice with your major.  I owe my position and career path in large part to the William F. Helm’s Scholarship which also provided me with the opportunity to work with PPQ during breaks and when my class schedule allowed.  Take advantage of opportunities like this and learn as much real-life experience as possible.


Finally, and most importantly, learn to communicate effectively.  While at Iowa State, I minored in Speech Communication which helped me develop the skills needed to effectively present ideas in a clear and concise manner.  Communication is a necessity in business, so learn how to deal with writing, presenting and communicating interpersonally now.

Favorite ISU class:

I would say it was the classes which made me want to pursue entomology as a major; these were Entomology 201 – Introduction to Insects and Entomology 211 – Insects and Society (Classroom Sections)