by Angela Herring

When Heather Fielding, COS ’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.

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, COS ’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, COS’ 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, COS’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, COS’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.”

Originally published in news@Northeastern on February 11, 2014.