Erin Graceffa’s first professional co-op experience was during the spring semester of her junior year — a six-month stint at EMC Corp., a Fortune 500 company based in Hopkinton, Mass. EMC is a leading provider of IT storage hardware solutions for cloud computing, Big Data, data protection and security.

“I worked in the company’s hardware engineering team, coding a script in Python that automated a testing process,” says Graceffa, an electrical & computer engineering major. “It was an incredible experience. I learned a new language while working with brilliant engineers and it gave me a great introduction to firmware. I was able to apply what I had learned at EMC to school.”

Last summer, Graceffa interned at Flow Forward Medical, a medical device startup at the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) at UMass Lowell. “Whereas EMC is a massive international corporation, Flow Forward Medical is a relatively small company with an interdisciplinary team. Hopefully, this will be a great start to a career in the medical device industry.”

She says UMass Lowell’s hands-on approach to learning, having the opportunity to participate in co-ops and taking elective courses have helped her figure out which career path she would like to take after graduation. “The co-op program has made me feel confident for any job interview or networking opportunity that comes my way,” she says. “And being a student at UMass Lowell has helped to shape me as the leader I am today. This is one of my biggest assets as a job candidate. Opportunities to lead, whether it is in the campus’ Society of Women Engineers [SWE] chapter or the UMass Lowell Ballroom Dance Team, have prepared me to be a team player and role model.”

Graceffa, who was awarded a scholarship by the Boston Section of the SWE, wants to work with advanced prosthetics after graduation. “In high school, I was very involved in an international organization, Best Buddies, which promotes friendship between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through that organization, I met some phenomenal people who struggle with daily tasks that many of us take for granted. They inspired me to pursue a career in engineering, which allows me to pursue my interests in applied math and science while helping others through innovative solutions.”