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Students find life calling through co-op

When Heather Fielding, S ’14, landed her co-op at the Joshua School in Colorado, she expected to shadow the speech language pathologist for the majority of her time at the education and day treatment facility for children with autism. But while the linguistics major did do a bit of shadowing, she also walked away with more than just an educational experience—she walked away with a purpose.

Fielding, a third-year student with no previous experience in applied behavior analysis, now plans to enroll in a behavioral master’s program next year. As she put it, “I have found my calling.”

Senior biology major Ashley Kellar had a similar experience while visiting South Africa for her first co-op in 2012. She was interested in veterinary medicine but wasn’t sure it was for her until she spent a few weeks with the Safari4u Conservation Project.

At the time, Northeastern didn’t have a veterinary co-op, and Safari4u didn’t have a pre-veterinary medicine program. So Kellar created both. She returned in 2013 for a full six months with the organization, working with exotic wildlife, livestock, and domestic animals, administering a variety of hands-on preventative and curative treatments. Now the program coordinator for Safari4u’s Veterinary Program, she hopes one day to return to the site as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Freshman biology majors Kyla Fearon, Emily Greenhaw, and Siyeh Gretzinger listened to the experiences of fellow students and learned about the array of co-ops available during the College of Science co-op expo at Raytheon Amphitheater on Friday. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Fielding and Kellar were just two of nearly two-dozen students who shared their co-op experiences with their peers at the College of Science Spring Co-op Expo on Friday in the Raytheon Amphitheater. Those in attendance learned about the valuable contributions students make on co-op, the college’s range of co-op partners, and the skills students gained from their experiential learning opportunities in countries such as Belgium, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates.

Chemistry major Matthew Eaton, S ’15, pursued his own basic research questions at the American University of Sharjah in the UAE working to understand a new class of organic thin-film precursor molecules.

Alexander Sousa, S’ 16, a third-year biology major, worked at Sanofi Pasteur in Cambridge, Mass. There, he helped to develop a new vaccine for Dengue Fever, one of the world’s most important viral-borne diseases, which affects some 100 million individuals each year.

And Monét Bland, S’14, a fifth-year pre-med student in the behavioral neuroscience department, decided to tack a doctorate onto her future credentials after doing research on aging, gene expression, and longevity in the model organism C. elegans at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

The event welcomed nearly 300 students, faculty, and staff. One of the attendees, freshman biology major Jenifer Obrigewitch, S’18, noted that setting up your first co-op can be a rather daunting task. Luckily, she said, the expo helped her figure out how to connect with employers and “how easy it is to do whatever you want,” adding that the event “helps you picture how to actually get it done.”