You are here

Co-op Help Guide Student Towards the Right Career Path

August 24, 2016

About Me

Kaely Gallagher is a rising third year bioengineering student excited about pioneering this new major at Northeastern. This is my first semester as a bioengineer, as I switched majors from mechanical engineering during my first co-op at a small biotech called XTuit Pharmaceuticals in Waltham, MA. At XTuit, I worked in Process Development and Formulation fabricating nanoparticles for drug delivery. At Northeastern this fall, I am hoping to explore my bioengineering interests further through research and students organizations. Additionally, I am a Community Management Officer and writer for Northeastern's chapter of Spoon University, a online food publication for college students.

Co-op Help Guide Student Towards the Right Career Path

As early on as writing the first draft of my resume, I began to get a clear sense of just how valuable Northeastern's co-op program is. Even before I knew where I would be working for the next six months, I was learning how to convey my skills and experience on a resume, how to professionally communicate with employers on the phone and via email, how to successfully prepare for an interview, how to personably sell myself and my personality, how to ask effective questions, and how to make good decisions. Every now and then I would stop and realize how much of an advantage the co-op program had already given me for the future workplace.

In the Fall of 2015, I was a mechanical engineering major interested in medicine. So, I tailored my first co-op search to medical device companies. I quickly learned during my interviews that mechanical device testing and design was not what I wanted to do. I found myself eagerly asking about any opportunities to learn about the biology and science behind the devices or to be involved with the doctors or patients using them. I was often disappointed by the answers and I was even told by one company that I "would not have to worry about all of that." The problem was, I did want to worry about it.

Thankfully, there was one "dark horse" co-op that was unlike the rest of those I applied to. And, after interviewing with them, showing my strong interest in the crossroads of medicine and engineering, and being offered the job, I accepted the position knowing nothing about the concepts I was to learn but very happy that I had risked continuing my search beyond the medical device field. In January 2016, I began my first co-op and discovered another level of the value of the co-op program. The position I accepted was at a small biotech called XTuit Pharmaceuticals in Waltham, MA as part of the Process Development and Formulation team. In learning how to make nanoparticles for drug delivery, I designed and executed my own experiments, developed strong laboratory skills, improved my ability to work in a team, and discovered a lot about myself and my work ethic. 

As a mechanical engineering major interested in biology and medicine, I took a chance on XTuit and they certainly took a chance on me, and I am grateful that everything worked out the way it did. Working at XTuit gave me the opportunity to learn new skills and be immersed in an exciting, unfamiliar field. And, when it came the time to register for Fall 2016 classes, I knew I did not want to stop exploring my newfound interests in laboratory work, pharmaceuticals, and medicine. This led me to take another risk and switch to the very new Bioengineering major at Northeastern. But I think this risk, just like the last one I took, will be worth it. 

I guess you could say that co-op actually "worked" for me in the way that people say it should; it helped me gain a clearer sense of what I want to do and what I don't want to do. Thanks to my first co-op, I now know that I loved working at a startup because of the fast-paced, challenging environment and unique company culture. I also know that I have an strong interest in medicine, oncology, and pharmaceuticals, and that I may want to pursue medical school in the future. And not only did I learn where I want to go next, but I also acquired invaluable skills, experience, and connections that will help me get there. I started my co-op as a mechanical engineer, but I left as a bioengineer, and I am more than excited to start classes and continuing searching for just what it is that I want to do.