As a sophomore now committed to a major, it is important to explore educational opportunities beyond what is taught in the classroom. Some of these opportunities, especially over the summer break, include internships, REU and Co-op. All of these experiences will improve a resume and provide first-hand experience into different industries. Professors and administrators have recently been stressing the importance of researching and applying to programs for the summer. These summer programs provide valuable experience and employers are attracted to prospective employees who have some sort of professional experience during college.
The first avenue to take for summer work is an internship. Companies offer internships to students from all types of majors and fields. All internships are different and the tasks that students complete are different for every company and position. Some popular internships offered to Lehigh Chemical Engineers are through Air Products, Gore, and other local businesses. Internships provide great opportunities to network, gain first-hand experiences of the professional world, and gain knowledge in a specific field. Internships usually require an application and then in person interview with the company. I have been looking at several companies to intern at and look forward to submitting applications soon.
Co-op is popular Lehigh, some companies I know that offer Co-op for Chemical Engineers are Air Products, Crayola, and ExxonMobil. Co-op is a multi-step process, the initial sign-up and information phase is currently going on. Students who wish to participate in Co-op complete interviews with companies they are interested in during the end of February and early March. If the student accepts a position, they take classes over the summer to supplement the normal junior fall semester. During the fall semester, the student works in their co-op, making money, and then comes back for spring semester. Then the summer before senior year, the student goes back to the same company for their second session. The Co-op program provides incredible experience in the professional world and looks great on a resume. Also, if student excels at their co-op position, the company may offer a full time position upon graduation.
Lastly is REU which stands for Research Experience for Undergraduates. I really didn’t know much about REU before it was introduced in Professional Development this week. Unlike internships and co-op, REU are strictly research oriented. Colleges around the country offer a 10 week funded program that focuses on a specific area to study. The REU is led by a professor and students, like me, work in a team environment to research an interesting topic. The topics are endless, but in choosing which REU to apply for, you must also consider the location. Beyond the research element, students also get to experience living in another part of the country and meet many new people. I am currently most interested in an REU at Pitt in which the area of research is modeling and simulating infectious diseases. I look forward to applying to several REU programs in hopes of being accepting into one.
In all truth and fairness, the future is frightening. I have no idea what I want to do or where I want to do it. Hopefully by taking advantage of the opportunities for this upcoming summer, I can develop an idea of what I want to do with my Chemical Engineering degree. For now, I need to focus on studying and doing well in class, with the state of my upcoming summer in the back of my head. I will keep you updated about the application process and other summer programs I find intriguing.