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On the Job Experience

Not many students begin college knowing what career path they want to follow, let alone know what type of internship or cooperative education (co-op) experience they want to pursue.

Sophomore Danielle Mendoza was the exception.

With the support of Dr. Anita Singh, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, Mendoza was able to secure her dream co-op placement last fall.  The School of Engineering’s co-op program allows students to gain up to one full year of compensated work experience throughout their studies and still graduate within four years.

Last year when Dr. Singh asked Mendoza what she wanted to do for her co-op, Mendoza had an answer.

Not only did Mendoza know what type of research she wanted to focus on, but she also knew where – the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Mendoza, a biomedical engineering major, wanted to study concussions in college athletes. She was always advocating for brain injury awareness in cheerleading. “I’m a cheerleader, which many people don’t consider a sport, but brain injury awareness is just as important in cheerleading as it is in any other sport college athletes are participating in,” she said.

After some research, Mendoza learned that there was a collaboration study happening between the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP.

“It’s the perfect combination for me,” Mendoza said. “It allows me to explore my passion for math and physics, while helping raise awareness of concussion in college-level athletes.”

During her co-op, Mendoza worked with the athletics department at the University of Pennsylvania to collect data on a variety of different sports.

The research led by Dr. Kristy Arbogast, co-scientific director and director of engineering for the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP, focuses on how brain injuries should be treated depending on the sport. The experience was eye-opening for Mendoza. She found her calling in research and hopes to pursue it after graduation. 

Similarly Meridyth Montisano, a sophomore chemical engineering major, explored career options she was passionate about when choosing her co-op with Johnson & Johnson.

Montisano wanted to explore the inner workings of manufacturing in her co-op experience. At Johnson & Johnson she was tasked with production responsibilities on improving efficiency.

During her extended co-op, Montisano also learned the practicality of her experience. “I can apply this learning experience to so many areas in engineering,” she said. “It was great to work for such a large company to gain a better understanding of all the different opportunities that are available.”