Christina Karl

Company: SABIC Innovative Plastics
Company URL: http://www.sabic-ip.com/gep/en/UtilityAndLegal/Careers/careers.html
School: Chemical Engineering, Minor in Communications
Hometown: Essex, Vermont
High School: Essex High School
Expected Graduation: B.S. ChE May 2013

It took me until the end of April of my senior year to finally choose Purdue, despite being accepted by November. My dad went to Purdue, so I had spent my entire childhood adamant that I would not follow in his footsteps. He had completed a co-op while he was here getting his degree in Materials Science Engineering, and so from hearing him talk about it I had already decided that I wanted to co-op no matter what school I went to. The idea of gaining almost 2 years of work experience with a single company before ever graduating school was incredibly enticing to me, as I wanted to have the best resume I could manage by the time I was done. I finally decided on Purdue because while it wasn't the best engineering program I was looking at, or the best co-op program, it had a more balanced offering with good programs in each and a much lower price tag.

SABIC is a global, petrochemical company based in Saudi Arabia. They purchased GE's Plastics division in 2007 to create SABIC Innovative Plastics (SABIC-IP). GE-P already had a great, well-established program with Purdue's Office of Professional Practice before the buy-out and has remained one of the largest co-op employers for ChE students. Though the location is in a rather small town in southern Indiana, the number of co-ops employed during any given semester makes it a really fun experience outside of work. The full-time employees are very welcoming and truly appreciate having co-ops to help them with their projects. There are certainly challenging assignments and challenging people to work with, but the overall experience has been a good one.

The main advantage is the work experience you gain. Getting a job when you graduate is hard, because companies all want you to ideally have years of work experience but that isn't really possible with internships (which are also incredibly competitive) unless you spend 6 years in school. With co-op, you graduate with almost two years of real, on-the-job engineering experience, and companies love to see that. The work experience also helps in your classes. Sometimes you might have already had to learn a concept for a project you were working on, or you've seen a particular vessel at your plant site. It makes the classes much easier to understand and it's nice to be able to see how the things you learn will be applied once you graduate.