A Day in the Life of a Co-op

Dami Bolarin
Oluwadamilola “Dami” Bolarin

In this occasional column, we focus on the daily activities of one College of Engineering undergraduate’s experiences on the job as a co-op so that we can address a couple of questions. Among them are: what does a co-op do all day; what are the tasks assigned; what sorts of co-op jobs are out there; what time is lunch? This month, we introduce third-year undergraduate Oluwadamilola “Dami” Bolarin, who is completing his second co-op cycle here at the College under the guidance of Professor Giuseppe R. Palmese, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Name: Oluwadamilola Bolarin
Class: Class of ’21, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Co-op: CoE Polymers & Composites Lab
Work Performed: Chemical synthesis and characterization of plant-based reactive diluents and monomers
When: Now through March 2019

7:30 a.m. Wake up at apartment in West Philly; walk 15 minutes to train for short commute to campus; visit food truck outside Center for Automation Technology for breakfast.
9 a.m. Start day in meeting with PhD students to lay out objectives and activities.
9:30 a.m. Perform chemical syntheses of monomers such as isosorbide methacrylate, mechanical analyses and characterization studies on bio-based polymers and thermosetting resins. Since experiments are usually left to run, part of this time is used to study important literature or set up presentation slides.
11:30 a.m. Clear up and clean up surroundings, and prepare for group meetings.
12 p.m. Group meetings led by Dr. Palmese including mini-lectures to find out what everyone else on the team is doing, learn new project incentives, preview presentations for conferences such as AICHE, and receive overview lectures on various equipment in the lab such as the DMA or SEM (Dynamic Mechanical Analysis or Scanning Electron Microscope).
2 p.m. Laboratory upkeep, such as inventory and restock.
3 p.m. Back in the lab to look over reactions and make sure tests are proceeding properly. Occasionally, set up reactions that will take place overnight or prepare samples for future use.
4:30 p.m. Clean up lab glassware and equipment thoroughly before departure.
5 p.m. Leave lab; commute back to apartment.

Takeaway Message: “This experience is a blessing in disguise for me since I didn’t really have a good job search during this co-op cycle. Working in a well-equipped laboratory with friendly graduate students, PhD students and post-doctorates motivates me to push my knowledge and productivity every day. I gain new hands-on skills because no question is ever too ‘dumb’ or too ‘hard’—it’s a relief. By the end of this co-op, I hope to have developed a new mindset towards engineering that comes in useful in future co-ops or in my classes.”