Learning Through Experience
At UMass Lowell, we engage students early in their college career to participate in meaningful, practical experiences that enrich learning; to prepare students for future work, life and world experiences.
For this purpose, Research co-operative education is a strong component of a student’s experience and offers undergraduate and graduate (masters and doctoral) students the chance to work side-by-side with leading research professors and professionals in all areas of research.
There are various types of Research and Community Co-op that offer both research lab and research with faculty (non-laboratory) opportunities. Examples include working in a campus research laboratory, helping a community organization, conducting reviews of program-related scholarship, or working on a business or marketing plan for a local start-up.
And the many benefits of co-op include facilitating the faculty-student interaction that is uniquely and richly supported at UMass Lowell, helping students learn new skills from hands-on experience that build on the knowledge acquired in the classroom, and providing an awareness of what takes place in a research lab that is working towards a product.
For our undergraduate juniors and seniors who usually round out their undergraduate experience with some of these types of opportunities, co-op helps students to explore their professional and higher education goals while making a valuable contribution in the workplace and community.
The University also has exciting Research and Community Co-op initiatives that allow undergraduate freshman and sophomore students to participate in exciting paid experiential learning opportunities working directly with outstanding faculty across the campus and academic departments.
Helpful Tools for Co-op Scholars
Below, meet a few students who are achieving their education goals with the help of co-op at UMass Lowell.
Anne Laraia '10, atmospheric sciences
Anne was an undergraduate research student in Dean Gamache's lab (Theoretical Molecular Spectroscopy Group) at the end of her freshman year.
"Doing undergraduate research was what made my undergraduate experience at UMass Lowell so great. Not only did I get to travel to Paris, France for one month to do research at two university laboratories, work at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for one summer, and get published six times over, but also I was introduced to the world of scientific research, and now I’m hooked. It was these opportunities that inspired me to apply to graduate programs in environmental science, and now I am pursuing my PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA. Undergraduate research challenged me to think independently as a scientist, and opened doors for me that I never even knew existed. In scientific research, I can make a difference; I can use my knowledge to help us understand the world and the universe that we live in. If not for the opportunity to do undergraduate research at UMass Lowell, I would not be where I am today."
Mark Lalli '12, chemical engineering
Mark is a Commonwealth Scholar. He was a research intern in a chemical engineering lab last summer and has participated in co-op since the summer after his high school graduation.
"My experience with my research co-op with the department of Chemical Engineering has been extremely informative. By doing research, I have gained knowledge firsthand that can't be taught in lectures and classrooms because it hasn't been discovered yet. This co-op has allowed me to network with professors and graduate students who are very knowledgeable in their fields of study. Most importantly, though, my co-op has taught me the art of failure. In science, you're lucky if 5% of your experiments are successful, but through patience and hard work, even a 5% success rate is worth it."
Pedro Vasquez '11, psychology
Pedro is the program manager for Fox Common, a popular venue in the largest student residence hall on campus.
"As student manager for the Fox Common venue on campus, I'm focused on creating great parties and programs for my fellow students. I was surprised by how much was in it for me. I've been given incredible opportunities to learn, such as the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and to manage a staff and a budget. I wasn't expecting as much when I took a job in the Student Activities office."
Daisy Ogunedo '11, music educationDaisy worked as a teacher with the UMass Lowell String Project, which brings music instruction and appreciation to local public-school children.
“I have learned more about being a teacher through the UMass Lowell String Project than through any other hands-on experience I've had,” says Daisy, a music education major and a cellist. “I’m happy to be teaching children who might not otherwise have exposure to classical music. It is my goal to inspire these kids, and seeing beginners grow to become the players they are now has been incredibly heart-warming.”
Michael Baier '10, electrical engineeringMichael was a research assistant in a laboratory during all four years of his undergraduate education.
"I’ve been working as a research assistant in Professor Sam Mil’shtein’s lab since my freshman year. Prof. Mil’shtein is highly regarded in the field of semiconductor technology. He acts not only as my boss but also as my mentor, pushing my team and me hard but also giving us technical and personal guidance along the way. That’s had a big impact on me. Thanks to the guidance of UMass Lowell faculty, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. and know that my professors’ connections to people in industry and at other universities will be helpful. My research experience also helped me graduate with my name on two patents."
Neha Manohar '14,chemical engineering Neha held a summer internship in a chemical engineering lab the summer before her freshman year.
"My internship at the Nano/Green lab gave me a wonderfully hands-on introduction to chemical engineering that was vastly different from the equally important one I received through courses and lectures. The experience cemented my decision to become a chemical engineer by introducing me to the incredibly diverse research aspect of the field. "One of my favorite parts about last summer's internship was attending the national meeting for the American Chemical Society in Boston. I had the opportunity to present my research to real professionals in the field, attend lectures by some of the most prominent chemists in the country and grab quite a bit of free stuff and business cards from the expo!"
Patrick O'Connell '11, business administration Patrick takes part in the UMass Lowell Honors Program and is working on an undergraduate thesis with the help of advisors, Dr. Steven Tello and Brooke Hargreaves-Heald.
“My thesis is a great opportunity to showcase what I've learned and develop a project of interest to me. I chose to build a business plan that would help the school and its patrons. I developed some ideas with my classmates that involved flexible photovoltaic technology, used in portable devices such as cell phones and ZipBike, an urban bicycle rental service. In a nutshell, light-sensitive dyes were placed on flexible sheets of plastic that then became a cell phone cover or substrate that actively charged the battery when exposed to light. The idea was based on current University research. We wrote a formal business plan, and then competed in front of a panel of faculty judges against other groups developing their own ideas to simulate real world investment pitches. My group won that competition and we were able to experience the payoff of hard work and a well-pitched plan.
"The ZipBike business plan looks to fill a gap in the American transportation market. It builds on European bicycle rental models found in major cities like Paris and Amsterdam. The opportunity to adapt this idea into my thesis helped to turn theoretical teaching into practical application. The idea was presented to the University's Facilities department to see if it could become a reality. This project not only helps me to understand the creativity and research that goes into an entrepreneurial venture, but it also gives me the chance to apply my schoolwork into a real world scenario. If the school agrees that my idea is worthwhile and wants to implement just such a plan, I will be able to help improve campus life and leave a legacy at this school."