Jennifer Simone talks about the Science Co-op Program
Jennifer Simone is a fifth year biochemistry student who is also pursuing a minor in Native Studies. Jennifer had work terms with PTI Transformers in Winnipeg, and the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. This year Jennifer has taken on the role of Student Ambassador to share her experiences with other students.
What did you like about participating in the co-op program?
A highlight of the Co-op program is the freedom it offers students. Students have the ability to schedule work terms in consultation with the Science Co-op Office based on their degree progress, apply for work terms out-of-province and abroad, as well as discover and broaden their own research and work interests. Each Co-op student’s experience within the program, even for students pursuing the same degree, is unique and personalized according to their goals and this support can help students get a head start on their career aspirations.
How do you think participating in co-op benefited you?
Co-op has afforded me many professional opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. During my work terms and involvement in the program in general, I was able to accelerate my professional growth and network beyond the U of M and even Winnipeg communities. I consider this aspect invaluable. My recent work term has also benefitted me by giving me the opportunity to pursue research in an area of longstanding interest to me.
Another benefit that the program has given me is the opportunity for personal growth. Pursuing an 8-month work term in Edmonton was initially difficult for me, as I had no prior experience with the city and no contacts there. This challenge pushed me to leave my comfort zone in order to acclimate myself to my new city and make connections, and I feel much more confident having overcome it!
What kinds of things did you learn during your work placements?
During my most recent and final work term of 8 months (January-August 2019) in Edmonton at the Cross Cancer Institute as part of Dr. Frank Wuest’s Oncologic Imaging research group, I synthesized a library of peptide radiotracers to image cancers via Positron Emission Tomography (PET). I quickly became well-versed in solid phase peptide synthesis (SPPS), High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), as well as MALDI-TOF and LC Mass Spectrometries. In addition, I also had the opportunity to deliver a research presentation to a large, professional audience for the first time. In my first work term, which took place here in Winnipeg at PTI Transformers, I learned how to write SOPs, expanded my knowledge of Microsoft Excel, and got to use specialized instrumentation to measure chemical and physical properties of transformer oil.
What would you say to students considering applying to the co-op program?
Firstly, I would encourage prospective students to explore their interests by asking questions to co-op program representatives (who are very approachable and helpful!), professors, or upperclassmen. Determining the best route for you allows you to have focused expectations and maximize your work terms.
Secondly, I recommend students make an effort to seek opportunities to become as well-rounded as possible. In my experience, employers ultimately look for students who they feel are eager to learn and adapt. The Science Co-op Program is centered around personal and professional development, and in order to maximize your improvement, students should aim to be adaptable and coachable.
So far, the Science Co-op Program has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate degree from academic, professional, and personal standpoints. I am confident that my skills and experience from the program will facilitate the achievement of my future goals.
For more information on the co-op education programs at the University of Manitoba, visit the Co-op website.