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Scientific discovery and self discovery

Photo by Christopher Huang.

Emily Batt can sketch a design for a new product in the morning, create a computer model by midday and have a working prototype generated by a 3-D printer in the evening. Since she started working at Fikst Product Development in Woburn, Mass., Batt has been involved in the design, development and testing of dozens of products.

But Batt isn’t a veteran employee of the company. She’s a co-op student who started her job just over three months ago.

“It’s my final co-op, and it really feels like a culmination of all my experiences at Northeastern,” said Batt, a senior physics major who has previously engaged in experiential learning at Oregon State University, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the MIT Media Lab. “It really ties in a lot of different fields of science — not just physics, my major – plus there’s the whole design component. It feels like I’ll be really ready for a career once I graduate.”

Batt was one of 16 students from Northeastern’s College of Science who presented work and research from their co-op jobs in an annual exposition held last week in the Curry Student Center Ballroom.

The students at the expo represented a broad range of sciences, from a psychology student who worked in a downtown Boston law firm to a pre-med student who worked in a hospital in Tanzania.

“The ring of things our students are doing is really broad and very, very impressive,” said Jordan Keefe, the College of Science’s director of student services. “It shows that our students are so well-prepared by their coursework that, even on a first co-op, they are able to participate and contribute right away like they’re a full-time hire who has completed a degree.”

Co-op jobs help students find out what they are passionate about, helping to shape their academic and professional futures, said Pam Mabrouk, associate dean for academic affairs and a professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the College of Science.

“One of the things I get the biggest kick out of at events like this is seeing our students describe their ‘aha!’ moments — that instance when they discovered exactly what they want to be doing,” Mabrouk said. “With co-op, they are able to know what they want to do. You put students in a real experience and they can really see what it’s like to have a career as a scientist.”

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