Chem­istry major William Smith’s research at the Dana-​​Farber Cancer Insti­tute led him to co-​​author an article pub­lished in the sci­en­tific journal Nature. Mechan­ical engi­neering major Alexandra Unger helped develop an instru­ment that mea­sures carbon dioxide in the atmos­phere and whether the com­pound orig­i­nated organ­i­cally or from industry pol­lu­tion. Biology major Megan Kas­sick dis­cov­ered a pas­sion for global health while working at an Indian orphanage for chil­dren with HIV/​AIDS.

These stu­dent expe­ri­ences — and many others — were high­lighted at North­eastern University’s 41st annual Coop­er­a­tive Edu­ca­tion Awards cer­e­mony, held Thursday in the Curry Stu­dent Center Ballroom.

The awards, estab­lished in 1971, rec­og­nize seniors who have had out­standing par­tic­i­pa­tion in the co-​​op pro­gram, the cor­ner­stone of the university’s experiential-​​learning model that now places nearly 7,000 stu­dents in 85 coun­tries world­wide. Recip­i­ents are nom­i­nated from Northeastern’s under­grad­uate col­leges by co-​​op fac­ulty coordinators.

In video inter­views shown at the cer­e­mony, stu­dents described par­tic­u­larly mean­ingful aspects of their co-​​op expe­ri­ences. Twenty seniors were rec­og­nized at the event, five more than last year — an increase that Fred Hoskins, senior director of Cen­tral Co-​​op Edu­ca­tion Ser­vices, attrib­uted to the excep­tional group of stu­dents who were nominated.

These are truly extra­or­di­nary stu­dents and extra­or­di­nary sto­ries,” Hoskins said.

One of those stu­dents, polit­ical sci­ence major Matthew Cournoyer, worked for Sen­ator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) as a leg­isla­tive intern. In his co-​​op video inter­view, Cournoyer described drafting a floor speech for the con­gressman. Through the entire co-​​op expe­ri­ence, he said it felt incred­ibly rewarding to make mean­ingful con­tri­bu­tions to the nation’s government.

I had a real oppor­tu­nity to be engaged in the world of pol­i­tics in a way I hadn’t before,” said Cournoyer, who was named a 2011 Truman Scholar, an honor that rec­og­nizes stu­dents with excep­tional lead­er­ship poten­tial who are com­mitted to careers in gov­ern­ment, the non­profit sector or other public service.

Envi­ron­mental sci­ence major Alyssa Pan­dolfi used co-​​op to pursue her interest in sus­tain­ability in three com­pletely dif­ferent realms – higher edu­ca­tion, urban agri­cul­ture and sci­en­tific research. In her third co-​​op, at the U.S. Depart­ment of Commerce-​​Marine Fish­eries, she joined a project through the Woods Hole Oceano­graphic Insti­tute to accom­pany researchers on a two-​​week survey of the ecosystem dynamics of fish pop­u­la­tions in the Atlantic Ocean.

In her video, she described the often-​​chaotic process of sorting fish by species as they quickly moved along a con­veyer belt on the ship’s deck. “The fish would just start coming, and it wouldn’t stop,” she said, laughing. “But overall, it was an amazing experience.”

Full list of awardees:
Alexandra Unger, a mechan­ical engi­neering major in the Col­lege of Engi­neering, won the Thomas E. McMahon Award, given to the stu­dent who clearly dis­plays out­standing integrity and char­acter com­bined with a high degree of devo­tion and com­mit­ment to serving the needs of others throughout his or her co-​​op experiences.

Matthew Coz­zolino, a health sci­ences major in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, won the Paul M. Pratt Award, con­ferred on the stu­dent who best demon­strates excep­tional per­sonal and pro­fes­sional growth as a result of his or her co-​​op experiences.

Tyler Den­niston, a com­puter sci­ence major in the Col­lege of Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ences, won the William Jef­ferson Alcott Jr. Award, given to the stu­dent who best uti­lizes his or her aca­d­emic training in a cre­ative way to make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to society; who demon­strates excep­tional achieve­ment in coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion; and who accom­plishes goals beyond the require­ments of the uni­ver­sity curriculum.

The fol­lowing seniors were rec­og­nized with Out­standing Co-​​op Edu­ca­tion Awards: Emily Batt, Nicole Beres, Kara Chic­carelli, Matthew Cournoyer, Cyn­thia Desir, Christo­pher Hoogew­erff, Megan Kas­sick, Kath­leen Kurtz, Kimerbly Masi, Bethany McE­leney, Elise Murray, Alyssa Pan­dolfi, Skyler Pressman, Demetris Roumis, William Smith, Abby Wagner and Matthew Walsh.