Wexford woman earns Rhodes Scholarship
As an intern at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Dakota “Cody” McCoy showed Penny the Amazon parrot a ball and tried to teach it to say the word.
Instead, the parrot squawked. After the bird made different squawks for other objects, McCoy realized it was not dumb.
“Penny was teaching Cody how to speak parrot. That made her think about how animals think and behave,” said her father, Richard McCoy, 57, of Wexford.
The Rhodes Trust announced on Saturday that McCoy, a Yale University senior, can further her studies of animals at Oxford University in England, starting in October.
She is one of 32 students from the United States and 80 worldwide to receive Rhodes Scholarships, considered the most prestigious in the world and worth about $50,000 a year for two or three years. She plans to get a master's degree in zoology and study the learning of animals, their ecosystems and environmental policy.
“I'm over the moon right now,” said McCoy, 22, of Wexford. “It's a great opportunity to use my science to help the world.”
At Yale, she throws the javelin and runs hurdles on the school's track team. She reads hieroglyphics and sings alto in the women's a cappella group, Whim 'n Rhythm. She binds books by hand and knows how to do letterpress printing.
Leo W. Buss, her academic adviser, said professors occasionally meet a student who is a cut above the rest.
“I've been at Yale 33 years, and I've seen three of them. And Cody is one of them,” Buss said. “She's in a different league.”
Her parents are Richard T. McCoy, an attorney and theoretical particle physicist, and Mary L. Marazita, professor and vice chairwoman of the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Pittsburgh.
McCoy said her parents used to spend 15 minutes a day before work and school to teach their children how to read and do math. Her two older sisters would read books to her about nature.
She took calculus in sixth grade and courses at Pitt, Carnegie Mellon and La Roche universities until she went to Yale.
Her father marvels at her kindness when she was in high school.
“Before the dances, she would be on the phone, trying to pair up the boys and girls who were not yet paired up,” he said.
He enjoys her goofy side, too. She likes to wear unmatched socks and the color orange whenever possible.
“We had to find her an orange prom dress,” he said. “Trust me, that's not easy.”
She wrote three research papers at Yale that were published in peer-reviewed journals, Buss said. They dealt with how birds of different sizes respond to climate change; how a bird ate, based on a 15 million-year-old fossil; and how primates learn.
“She's behaving at a level professional scientists are engaged in,” he said.
McCoy won the Rhodes and Yale's Francis Gordon Brown Award, both once reserved for men.
“It's clear that women are the equal of men in academic fields and all fields,” she said.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Former Steelers LB Haggans to do time in Westmoreland jail
- Crosby banned from Jets game because he missed All-Star Game
- LeBeau won’t join Cardinals coaching staff
- Pittsburgh cracks down on overcrowded houses
- Allegheny County using $15.5M grant to reduce homelessness
- Pine-Richland’s DiNucci to Pitt; Kittanning’s Bowers opts for PSU
- Owner of Italian Village Pizza stores gets house arrest for tax evasion
- Cal U professor who died in campus office was lawyer, civil rights leader
- National Weather Service to evaluate work after missed call on storm
- Tanker crash closes lane of Turnpike in Penn Township
- Emergency room visits decline as navigators steer patients to proper medical care