Joshua Gonzalez has always been curious about engineering. As a physics major at a college in New Jersey, he had hoped to pick up some engineering classes, but wasn’t able to do so without adding another major. When he decided to pursue a master’s in engineering, he knew he had some catching up to do.
“Choosing a program that gave me professional experience at the same time that I was earning my degree was a crucial decision point,” Gonzalez shares. “I wanted to absorb as much experience I could before graduating.”
Gonzalez found that opportunity at Drexel. He decided to build on what he had learned as a physics major and focus his master’s degree on materials science. The program is one of many in the College of Engineering that offers a flexible graduate co-op option, allowing students to gain experience in the field while they earn credits towards their degree.
His co-op took him to Applied Materials, a semiconductor chip manufacturing company based in California. Using skills that he had picked up as a web design minor, Gonzalez was able to stand out from the crowd.
“The position was for web design, but the fact that I was an engineering student made me uniquely qualified for the job,” Gonzalez shares. “I was developing internal sites for the sales team to use every day to explain and promote their products to different clients. Because I understood the materials science that went into the products, I could present them in an optimal way.”
Because his co-op was done remotely, Gonzalez was able to take advantage of Drexel’s flexible scheduling, which allows students in select grad programs to take one class per quarter while on co-op and also awards credit for research. He worked with Distinguished University and Charles T. and Ruth M. Bach Professor Yury Gogotsi, PhD, in the Drexel Nanomaterial Institute, researching how MXenes can be used to extend the lifecycle of coin cell batteries. The research matched well with what he was learning in his co-op.
“Applied Materials is in the chip industry, and they use similar materials to create electronic components that I’m looking at in the lab at Drexel,” he says. “So, there’s a direct connection between the things I saw on my co-op and what I did in the lab.”
The experience that Gonzalez picked up on his co-op and in the lab led him to pursue a new opportunity: an internship working for The Walt Disney Company as part of their Global Applied Technology team, testing designs for wheels on roller coasters and other rides. He is taking a virtual class while working so he can keep progressing with his master’s program.
“The goal is to make wheels that use less material, so they’re more cost-effective and give a smoother ride while keeping them strong and reliable,” he says. “I would not have been able to have this opportunity without my co-op experience to build on.”
Gonzalez hopes to continue his education after his master’s degree, perhaps looking for an MBA or PhD that could help him start his own engineering company. Whatever he decides, he says that his experience at Drexel is setting him up for success.
“It is a challenge, working full time and earning more degrees,” he says. “But the pace of things here at Drexel, with research and classes and co-op, has really helped me organize myself and turned me into a more polished professional. I’m in a really good situation because of what I’m doing here.’