The Tea on Co-op

Andrea Griffin // Chemical Engineering, COE ’24

Hey y’all! I’m so excited to share a half-way update on my co-op experience and get into what goes down in the crazy world of ~corporate life~

I’ll start with a bit of background about my co-op and what I do. I work at Nuvera, a hydrogen fuel cell company, and my main responsibilities are to run testing on a single cell for material verification. Soooo what does that mean? Essentially, I test different conditions of humidification, fuel supply, and temperatures on a singular cell (as opposed to a stack or engine) and evaluate the performance from these tests. From these, my boss sends the data back to the companies we got our supplies from and either orders materials from them to make stacks and eventually engines, or we inform them of the shortcomings of their materials and wait for improvements to be made to get another set of materials to test. This process takes several months, so each co-op focuses on one set of materials to test.

I am still waiting on the new cycle of materials, but in the meantime, I typically am not too bored. The first couple weeks were extremely mellow – I was reading up on training material and working with the previous co-op to learn about the job and what I will be doing. Then about a month in, everything at the test station I was working on broke, which started off a month and a half of chaos and an unimaginable amount of troubleshooting. Eventually, through reading just about every manual I could find and a series of leak checks, the test stations were back in order, and I am now working on one that hadn’t been used in 2 years!

Aside from the job job aspect, I also get along really well with my fellow co-ops. There are a total of 8 of us working here, and it is so exciting to talk with them to see what other people are working on and how everything we’re doing in our respective departments meshes together. It also helped that one of my friends is also working here, so we immediately created a friendly environment. In addition to that, half of us carpool in together, so that’s a fun start and end to each day.

I also have been able to connect and chat with people who have worked here for a couple of years, and it is really nice to have people I can wave “hi” to as we pass in the hallway or the cafeteria. Something that I did not realize happened as well is that people don’t exclusively talk about work at work. While my test stations were in deep repair, I would chat with the people helping me work on it all the time and we would exchange TV show recommendations and even baking recipes. On top of that, they would tell me their career paths to this point and give a bit of guidance on what I’m thinking about doing which has been so helpful looking toward my next co-op experience and beyond. 

Going into this experience, I had no idea what to expect. One of the things about chemical engineering (I think this applies to most fields as well) is that you can do anything you want with your degree because at the end of the day what matters is that you have the passion, drive, and ability to learn. Each company will have a different way of doing things that there’s no way to teach it all in college, but that’s why we go on co-op, to have the learning experiences and see what it’s like in the real world. I still don’t know what’s coming at me for these next 2 months, but I am so excited to keep going and keep learning and eventually see what’s next.

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