Katherine Spagnoli took a roundabout path to arrive at UMass Lowell’s Plastics Engineering Department – now it feels like home. Starting with associate’s degrees from Mt. Wachuset Community College and Wentworth Institute of Technology, she transferred to UMass Lowell in her sophomore year.

“The Plastics program is amazing, much more than I ever expected,” she says. “I appreciate the faculty – you get a lot of support in building your career and your education.”

Spagnoli worked a summer co-op position at Sterilite Corporation, manufacturer of food and household storage containers. She trained in all the jobs at the company, including “maintaining machines, working on production processes, understanding how product moves in and out,” and even learned to run a forklift. With a background in product design, she especially likes manufacturing, where “you can see it from start to finish.”

Co-op is a triple win: experience, income and course credit. Spagnoli says, “It was difficult finding opportunities on my own, so I was surprised at how many opportunities came my way through the co-op program, and there was help at every step."