Jill Zalewski, Chemistry
“As an incoming freshman, I never expected to receive the opportunity to do a co-op/internship because I thought that was just for upperclassmen. ”
“As an incoming freshman, I never expected to receive the opportunity to do a co-op/internship because I thought that was just for upperclassmen. The opportunity was extremely valuable, and although I was initially hesitant about accepting the offer, I’m definitely glad that I did. I worked in the physics department’s lab, although I’m majoring in chemistry. I got the chance to work with Prof. Mengyan Shen and PhD students, who are extremely knowledgeable and talented. Their main goal was to find a solution to depleting fossil fuels by using nanotechnology to make their own hydrocarbon fuels for cars and houses, and I was fortunate to help them to achieve this. My main task was to use electrochemistry principals to figure out how to plate cobalt onto silicon that was formed with a laser. This wafer would then be used in a photosynthesis process where carbon dioxide and water would react on top of the structure to form fuels.
I liked this experience because instead of working on a different experiment every week as in the school lab courses, I worked mostly on one thing for many weeks, which gave me a better idea of what it would be like at an actual job. There are many important things that I took away from this experience. I learned that two subjects (physics and chemistry) could be combined and work toward a higher purpose. As a chemistry major working in a physics lab, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into, but it was surprising to me how much the subjects have in common. I also gained confidence and learned responsibility in the lab, as I had to write a lab procedure and conduct experiments by myself. Most importantly, I gained a better understanding of what I’d actually like to do in the real world with a job. This job involved a lot of researching and reading, which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as the experiments. This showed me that when I get a job out of college, I’d like to do lab work versus research.
This co-op experience was very important for showing me what I really want out of my major, and it also looks great on a resume. I would suggest to other freshmen who are offered this opportunity to definitely take it. It’s an honor and an extremely valuable opportunity to have so early in a college career.”