Each semester, UConn students have the opportunity to participate in a co-op, or a paid, full-time working opportunity lasting at least the length of a semester. Students who enroll in a co-op through the Center for Career Development retain their full-time status at the university, and their co-op experience appears on their official transcript.
Additionally, each year, students who participate in a co-op can apply to be UConn’s Co-Op Student of the Year. We would like to officially congratulate the 2017 Co-Op Student of the Year, Zane Grady, and our 2nd and 3rd place winners, Alexandria Ostrowski and Julie Pyrcz. Below is additional information about our winners!
CO-OP STUDENT OF THE YEAR
Zane Grady recently completed a yearlong co-op at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. While there, Grady contributed to three main projects that all had positive implications on NASA’s operations. Overall, Grady believes the NASA Langley Research Center has greatly expanded his knowledge of his field. He said, “As a researcher, I expanded my previously narrow field of study (metallurgy and additive manufacturing) to include a wide spectrum of polymeric and surface science experience. Through stepping outside of my technical and academic comfort zone, my co-op experience has made me a more effective scientist and efficient learner.”
One of Grady’s projects involved the demonstration of a novel resin-infused metallic foam composite for the leading edges of aircraft wings that increased damage resistance over other coatings/films that are commercially available. Grady’s other two projects were research-focused. One explored the formation of silica shells on small polystyrene microspheres to aid non-intrusive aerodynamic study of small-scale models. This research resulted in Grady achieving first authorship on a peer-reviewed manuscript that will be published within the year. Grady also led research efforts to replace the polymeric inner liner of an emergency fire shelter as part of a joint NASA Langley – U.S. Forest Service collaboration. Grady’s efforts on this project have resulted in the development of a unique gas barrier material system that shows an improvement in time to failure (as measured by breathing air temperature and quality metrics) from 45 seconds to over two minutes.
“The professional and technical experience from my co-op has wholly prepared me for the rigors of a career in science,” said Grady, who will be graduating from UConn this May with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering: Materials Science and Engineering, and plans to pursue a Ph.D. with a focus on novel materials that have life-saving applications.
Grady will go on to compete in the Cooperative & Experiential Education Division of the American Society for Engineering Education for national recognition.
2ND & 3RD PLACE WINNERS
Alexandria Ostrowski is approximately halfway through a two year co-op with the Distributed Projects Team at United Technologies Aerospace Systems (UTAS) in Windsor Locks, CT. Ostrowski has contributed to a variety of projects from start to end during her time with UTAS. Through various efforts to improve UTAS’s commodity management and strategic sourcing, Ostrowski has collaborated with individuals from teams throughout the company, including quality, engineering, design, export, contracts, legal, and compliance. More specifically, she has built quote packages for over 5,000 part numbers to collect, organize, and analyze data to be used for source selection. Her efforts in this regard are expected to provide $350,000 in savings for UTAS. Ostrowski will graduate from UConn this coming May with a degree in Economics and plans to pursue a career at a company with a culture of inspiring innovation like the one she has experienced at UTAS throughout the past two years.
Julie Pyrcz is wrapping up a yearlong co-op with Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT. Pyrcz has served as a cabinet member for Pratt & Whitney and has been involved in many strategic communication initiatives for the company. Some of her major projects have included special event participation and pledging for the company’s 2017 United Way campaign, culture change communications for Human Resources, product communications for the Geared TurbofanTM Engine, and corporate social responsibility communications. Pyrcz is currently helping plan for the Engineering & Technology Center ribbon cutting and Family Day, a company-wide event with 10,000 projected attendees. Pyrcz will graduate from UConn this coming May with a degree in Communications and plans to pursue a career in corporate communications that will allow her to have a direct impact on the business she works for and its employees.
Once again, we would like to congratulate our Co-Op Student of the Year winner and our two runner-ups. We look forward to seeing the future accomplishments all three of these students go on to achieve.