Our students are highly encouraged to participate in an internship and/or co-op experiences, allowing them to learn more about a specific area of engineering with practicing engineers on real-world projects. Many of these positions lead to full-time employment after graduation.
- Internships are typically a summer only experience, and if they are local, there is potential for the student to continue working part-time through the school year.
- Co-ops require a semester or a semester and a summer away from campus. Students maintain full-time student status while on co-op, and resume their studies when they return to campus. Intern and co-op students may also be able to receive academic credit through their department.
SR, Mechanical Engineering
Co-op: NASA Ames Research Center/Moffett Field, CA
Eric received a $1,160 summer internship grant (2012) from UNL Career Services to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
My experience at NASA Ames Research Center was overall very satisfying. I was primarily working with coding, which is quite necessary in the career I intend to pursue. While working at Ames, I gained extensive knowledge on rotorcrafts. I’ve learned many of the intricacies of how helicopters fly and the challenges presented to designers. I also learned a great deal about the relationship between civilian organizations and military, and what it takes to work with the two.
This experience has helped my self-confidence enormously. I’ve always been very critical of my own work, but the approval of the people in my branch has helped me become more confident in my work. My mentor also is known for embarrassing his interns. Through this I’ve grown more comfortable talking in front of groups of people, both with and without highly technical backgrounds.
You’ll only get out of it what you put in. Talk frequently with your mentor, especially if you don’t like your project or find yourself with too much free time. Talk to the other people and learn what else is going on at your workplace. Chances are people will want to talk to you about what they do.
SR, Biological Systems Engineering
Co-op: Novartis Consumer Health, Inc., Lincoln, NE
I'm currently working with the Cleaning Validation Team at Novartis Consumer Health, Inc. This team is in charge of making sure the manufacturing and packaging lines are cleaned appropriately between the production of product A and product B. There are various formulas used to determine what the allowable limit of product ingredient, microbial growth, and cleaning agent that can be leftover after a major clean. My part is helping with various data collection and swab sampling procedures.
My co-op may not be extremely applicable to my Biomedical Engineering aspirations, but it still has been highly beneficial nonetheless. Being in a professional environment for 8 hours every day and interacting with other engineers has been very interesting and helpful.
During your experience try to meet as many people as possible and try to understand their role in making the company run. Sometimes it's not what you know, but who you know. Also, you may not always have the most glamorous jobs as an intern, but try to still work hard at them with a smile on your face. You never know who may be watching.
JR, Chemical Engineering
Co-op: Omaha Public Power District
As an intern, I am working on projects that are performed by young engineers. I have received training regarding safety and how to perform some of my tasks of having equipment installed. Since all of my projects I worked on came off of the young (contact) engineers’ work list, all of my projects were very useful to the group I am working in. My projects have allowed me to use many different skills. I have used statistical skills and mass and energy skills learned in school but I have also used skills involving working with many different people for my other projects.
I have learned so much regarding how the actual chemical processes work compared to ideal conditions. It has been very interesting to see actual equipment such as drums, towers, steam traps, valves, turbines, and pumps. I have also learned a lot regarding professional knowledge by working with co-workers and contractors and giving presentations regarding my work.
SO, Industrial Engineering
Co-op: Walt Disney World Resort / Florida
Overall, this co-op has positively impacted my educational and professional plans. Because the IE program is closing at UNL, I knew the best thing to do is gain work experience early on to stay competitive in the field. I plan on graduating in a total of 4.5 to 5 years.
At Disney, I was able to learn technological tools quickly, in a way Industrial Engineers utilize them. I have more exposure to MS Excel, MS Access, and SAS. I was given active IE projects and independence to solve problems on my own, based on what I have learned inside and outside of the classroom.
I was also able to improve my relationship-building and presenting skills. I am more confident because I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of different people throughout my term, from operational cast members to VP level. I presented my projects to a variety of clients to help them make decisions in their line of business.
Gain work experience as soon as you can! I am much more motivated to learn because of my experiences with real problems and solutions Industrial Engineers currently face and can apply it to learning in the classroom.
SO, Computer Engineering
Co-op: Verizon Wireless/ Schertz, TX
If I could have kept this position as a full time job, I definitely would have jumped at the opportunity. I will now be comparing all future positions with this internship with the work environment and the interactions with employees. I was well trusted by the company, enough to drive one of the baseline vehicles, (a 2009 Chevy Tahoe outfitted with a custom cell phone testing chassis), from San Antonio to Amarillo and Lubbock for a grand total of 2000 miles.
I learned more than I ever expected to. I’ve learned quite a bit about basic RF theory and network infrastructures, along with the ways parameters on each cell site can affect the way it interacts with a phone and the rest of the network.
I’ve learned more about radio waves and the ways they propagate, and I taught myself DOS and used it to write an automation script. I also utilized a windows 7 computer for the first time, and several proprietary Verizon Wireless tools for design and monitoring purposes.
Do an internship before you graduate. I still have plenty to learn about electrical engineering while in a classroom, but this opportunity gave me a chance to see the practical application of my degree, and what parts of it I will need to pay close attention to.
SR, Electrical Engineering
Co-Op: Information Services, UNL
I had tons of opportunity in software engineering and development (especially in the mobile space). As always, my bosses have been great mentors and helped me step into leadership roles whenever our team needed. I honed my coding and problem solving skills and also prepared quite a few reports from research into mobile problems and solutions (what kind of mobile platform is best for what kind of usage, technical limitations of different platforms, etc.).
Among the things I achieved through this semester’s co-op are: understanding code in HTML5, iOS, Android mobile development, User Interface/User Experience needs and ways to solve human interaction problems, collaborating with team members who come from different skill and expertise levels and leading them.
Advice: Knowing well beforehand what exactly you plan to learn (the kind of skills, or software languages, or the nature of problem solving you will be expected to do). I have always been lucky that my managers were OK with me charting out my plans and expectations. Doing that in the beginning of the semester helps focus me throughout.
JR, Mechanical Engineering
Co-op: Omaha Public Power District, Blair, NE
I am currently working on Design Change Requests for the plant. I update drawings of the plant when something is either changed or found to be incorrect on the drawing. This job applies to the design aspect of mechanical engineering and it gives me experience using multiple databases to track parts, drawings, and other documents.
My advice to future co-ops is to be ready to do a lot of paperwork, because here at OPPD everything is thoroughly documented in multiple databases and forms. My supervisor says this is great for the organization because of all the training one has to complete to work in a nuclear power plant, if they decide to hire me on full time I am already acclimated to the system and have completed the basic training.