In the Fall of 2015, I was a mechanical engineering major interested in medicine. For me, this naturally meant tailoring my first co-op search to medical device companies. I quickly learned during my interviews that mechanical device testing and design was not what I wanted to do. I found myself eagerly asking about any opportunities to learn about the biology and science behind the devices or to be involved with the doctors or patients using them. I was often disappointed by the answers and I was even told by one company that I “would not have to worry about all of that.” The problem was, I did want to worry about it.
Thankfully, there was one “dark horse” co-op that was unlike the rest of those I applied to. And, after interviewing with them, showing my strong interest in the crossroads of medicine and engineering, and being offered the job, I accepted the position knowing nothing about the concepts I was to learn but very happy that I had risked continuing my search beyond the medical device field. In January 2016, I began my first co-op and discovered another level of the value of the co-op program. The position I accepted was at a small biotech called XTuit Pharmaceuticals in Waltham, MA as part of the Process Development and Formulation team. In learning how to make formulations for drug delivery, I designed and executed my own experiments, developed strong laboratory skills, improved my ability to work in a team, worked alongside motivated and inspiring colleagues, and discovered a lot about myself and my work ethic.
As a mechanical engineer curious about biology and medicine, I took a chance on XTuit and they certainly took a chance on me, and I am grateful that everything worked out the way it did. Working at XTuit gave me the opportunity to learn new skills and be immersed in an exciting, unfamiliar field. And, when it came the time to register for Fall 2016 classes, I knew I did not want to stop exploring my newfound interests in laboratory work, pharmaceuticals, and medicine. This led me to take another risk and switch to the very new Bioengineering major at Northeastern. But I think this risk, just like the last one I took, will be worth it.
I guess you could say that co-op actually “worked” for me in the way that people say it should; it helped me gain a clearer sense of what I want to do and what I don’t want to do. Thanks to my first co-op, I now know that I loved working at a startup because of the fast-paced, challenging environment and unique company culture. I also know that I have a strong interest in medicine, oncology, and pharmaceuticals, and that I may want to pursue medical school in the future. And not only did I learn where I want to go next, but I also acquired invaluable skills, experience, and connections that will help me get there. I started my co-op as a mechanical engineer, but I left as a bioengineer, and I am more than excited to continue learning and searching for just what it is that I want to do.