Brennan Coleman knew from an early age that he was interested in engineering. And for almost as long as that, he’s had a relationship with Drexel.
“When I was a sophomore in high school, I participated in the Materials Science and Engineering Summer Institute,” Coleman recalls. “I spent a week coming into the city and getting to run experiments in the Innovation Lab. That experience set me on a path where I really focused on materials science.”
As a student, Coleman sought opportunities to work in the field that had sparked his passion and became a student research member in the Natural Polymers and Photonics lab of Caroline Schauer, PhD, Margaret C. Burns Chair in Engineering and associate dean for research and faculty affairs.
When it came time to enter the co-op phase of his Drexel education, he wanted to be sure that he could continue to refine his skills.
Coleman is working as a natural materials co-op with DSM, a global health sciences company focused in the areas of health, nutrition and materials. He is specifically working with collagen to develop membrane-based products.
“The research I’ve done at Drexel has been focused on natural polymers and polymer processing, but it’s hard to find jobs out there that are specifically focused on the natural polymers side of things,” Coleman explains. “When I saw this position posted, it really stood out.”
“One of the big projects I’m doing is working on a bone void filler,” he says. “It’s an injectable bone graft substitute. I’m assessing the materials that we can use in the filler and helping to combine it with an antibiotic. It’s really cool to be able to work something that’s a very early-stage product like this.”
Working in labs at Drexel has prepared Coleman for exactly this kind of work, but one difference stands out.
“My day is pretty similar to when I’m on campus as a student — I go to the lab, then back to my desk, back and forth,” he says. “But when I’m not doing either of those, instead of going to a classroom, I go to meetings with other professionals. I’m learning a lot attending those meetings, getting a better idea of how things work on an industrial scale.”
The meetings also give Coleman more chances to interact with more of his fellow employees — chances that he says bolster his confidence.
“The people that we work with while we're on co-op make a big difference,” he says. “I love the people that I've gotten to work with here, the support that they give on the opinions that I offer. They make me feel like I'm not a student, which actually feels really good when you're in an environment like this, and they take your input as just as important as any other member of the team.”
The co-op experience, Coleman says, has prepared him not only for what it will be like to work in a professional setting, but also how to be a stronger student.
“Something I’ve learned here is how to do planning and kind of reasoning through next steps with my research,” he says. “There's plenty of higher-level classes that you get into that the solution is not at all straightforward, or able to be figured out right away but getting the experience of collaborating and getting everybody's input to work through the is the way to the solution. It's applied significantly here in co-op, and it's something that I will bring back and further through my last year.”