Faculty Feature: Chet Cooper, Professor of Biological Science

By Gabrielle Owens
Jambar Contributor

This is the first in a series of features on faculty members intending to dive into their careers, educations and what they were like in college. 

Chet Cooper, a professor of biological sciences, has been teaching at Youngstown State University for 20 years and uses each of his experiences to prepare students for their future endeavors.

Cooper said in order for him to be a professor, he had to achieve the right credentials and experience to be successful in the field of biological sciences.

As an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh , Chet Cooper discovered his passion studying biology and fungal diseases. Photo courtesy of Chet Cooper.

 Cooper said he grew up in Western Pennsylvania and attended the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown to receive his bachelor’s degree in biology. For his master’s and doctorate in microbiology, he attended the University of Texas.

As an undergraduate, Cooper majored in pre-med. While attending the University of Texas, he had the opportunity to work with a fungal biologist for research experience and this led to his discovery of his passion for biology and his primary field in studying fungal diseases.

“I became more fascinated with the science rather than the medical part. So eventually I was able to do some research with a faculty member and an undergraduate and I became  fascinated by fungi, and that’s how I got started,” he said.

Cooper said the type of disease linked to his fungal infection research is called Talaromycosis, which is caused by the fungus Talaromyces marneffei. This disease is typically endemic to Southeast Asia and typically affects those infected with HIV.

Throughout Cooper’s teaching career, he’s worked at the New York State department of health identifying fungal infections. He also worked at Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Texas Medical branch before being hired by YSU in 2000.

According to Cooper, YSU created a great work environment for him to teach and he is happy to be a professor at the university.

“When I came to YSU, it was a nice fit, nice environment and the way my position was designed, I get to teach what I like to teach and I get to do research with undergraduate and graduate students,” Cooper said. “Also, I’m involved in a lot of things and I really enjoy my job, so I’m happy here.”

Cooper advises prospective professors to earn a doctorate and receive some extra training as a post doctorate.

“Being in academia is a wonderful life, but there are a lot of positions out there, you just have to find the opportunity. That’s why I try to steer students to take additional courses other than their sciences — things like business courses or some writing courses to expand their skill sets,” he said. “Students have to be adaptable. They just can’t set their sight on one particular goal. They have to be able to adjust to how things change.”