Mark Metzdorf

Company: Lyondell Chemical Company
Company URL: http://www.lyondell.com/
School: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Granger, IN
High School: Penn High School 2002
Expected Graduation: May 2007

When Mark began his college search, he realized that many had cooperative education programs. According to Mark, "I decided that the Co-Op was one of my primary criteria for selecting a school. I visited several schools in Indiana and Michigan, looked at many more online, and ultimately chose Purdue. I liked Purdue because it is in state and I liked their Co- Op Program. Purdue obviously has a very good reputation and their engineering programs are some of the best in the country, so it seemed like I certainly would receive a good education. Purdue's Co-Op program has a good rapport and also places students with employers across the country.

Many people think it is odd that as an electrical engineer I work for one of North America's largest chemical companies. However, after having worked several terms I realize that although maybe a little out the ordinary, it is a really neat environment to work in. I play a key support role in the manufacturing of the products. If the electricity does not work, the products do not get made.

The biggest challenge was my first term. I found myself in a huge complex with all sorts of strange equipment and many different machines that could cause explosions or were otherwise dangerous. Although I quickly found that safety was a key component of the work experience and championed by everyone I work with, adjusting to the different environment was the biggest challenge. Also, the type of equipment I was working with was not small and simple like the machines in our laboratories at school. It was large, old, dirty, and in some cases needed to be fixed or replaced quickly to keep production going. Also, I encountered many types of equipment that I had never seen before. Overall, the biggest challenge was the large learning curve and adapting to the terminology, equipment, and ways of doing things.

The biggest advantage is the experience I have gained as a Co-Op. There is no substitute for good hands-on experience. Returning to the same employer multiple times has given me the chance to really get to know my job and make a meaningful contribution to the company. Academically, there is also an advantage. Experiencing real-world work has given me a better understanding of the theory behind what I am learning in school. This not only helps me understand the course material better, but allows me to understand real world applications. I no longer have to ask 'when am I ever going to use this?’ Although alternating school and work semesters make continuity on campus more difficult, the Co-Ops tend to find each other to form social and study groups when we are on campus. We are automatically part of group that shares a common bond.”