Student Experience

UT Co-ops Featured on NASA JSC Website

William Duong spent his summer in a way that almost any aspiring aerospace engineer would envy: he performed a stress analysis on a new lander that NASA plans to send to the moon and, prior to that, developed prototype flight software for Orion, the spacecraft that crew members spend of most their time in while in flight. The software he developed will help determine the entry trajectory and landing footprint available for the spacecraft during its entry back to earth.

William Duong

William Duong

A resume like this is impressive on its own, but it is even more so considering Duong is still a college student.

The aerospace engineering senior is one of 121 Cockrell School of Engineering students to participate in the University of Texas Cooperative Engineering Education Program in 2009-2010. Established in 1966, the program places eligible engineering students with participating industry partners for a minimum of two semesters of full-time work. Students trade life on the 40 Acres for a semester to work in a company or government agency setting. While there, students earn a competitive salary and gain valuable work experience that gives them an opportunity at the college-level to test the theories and concepts learned in the classroom in their particular career field or research area.

This past summer, Duong and mechanical engineering senior Hannah Bradley worked at the Johnson Space Center in Houston through the co-op program with NASA.

William Duong

William Duong

Bradley, a senior in mechanical engineering who has completed four work terms for NASA through the co-op program, did everything from assisting in the selection and design of window material for Orion, creating Mission Control summary sheets used by NASA in day-to-day mission operations and conducting research on polymer fraction mechanics.

Her work as a co-op student impressed NASA so much that she was recently offered a full-time job, which she plans to start upon graduating in August 2011. Bradley will pick up where she left off in the Engineering Structures Branch as the protégé to NASA’s current windows materials expert.

Hannah Bradley

Hannah Bradley

She was also recently selected as UT’s 2010 nominee for the Cooperative Education Student Achievement Award, a national honor sponsored by the Cooperative Education and Internship Association.

Both she and Duong say the experience they gained as co-op students was invaluable to their education and future as engineers.

During Duong's three co-op work terms, he visited the Neutral Buoyancy Lab Pool, met retired NASA flight director Gene Kranz and rode in the Zero G plane, a fixed-wing aircraft that provides a nearly weightless environment for astronauts to perform training.

Hannah Bradley

Hannah Bradley

“Many people think of ‘busy work’ when they hear co-op. That is a misconception. The work that goes on around [NASA] is challenging, rewarding and pretty cool, overall, but definitely not busy work,” Duong said. “Being a co-op was one of the most rewarding times of my life and I’m sure it would be [for anyone who applied.]”

For students wanting to know more about their co-op work, check out Duong and Bradley’s profiles featured on the NASA website.

Co-op Student Experience

In addition to gaining technical work experience to enhance their resume and increase marketability upon graduation, Co-op students can also take advantage of and benefit from a variety of opportunities both while on the job and when they return to campus.

While at work, our co-op students have:

  • Completed volunteer projects and community service, such as tutoring at local schools, working for Habitat for Humanity, and running charity drives
  • Networked with industry leaders, including vice presidents and, even, company CEOs
  • Participated in professional development opportunities, such as certification in Six Sigma and attending national conferences

In between work terms, co-op students have: 

  • Remained active in student organizations and on-campus activities
  • Participated in study abroad experiences
  • Completed summer internships with other employers

Students who successfully complete the Co-op Program receive the following recognition for their achievements:

  • Official program completion certificate, signed by the Dean of Engineering
  • Special acknowledgment at commencement and engineering honors ceremonies

Kappa Theta Epsilon. Be among the best!

Kappa Theta Epsilon (KTE) is a National Co-op Honor Society that aspires to promote cooperative education by recognizing outstanding students in the cooperative education program. The Rho Chapter of KTE was established at The University of Texas at Austin in the Spring of 1999.

How do you get involved? KTE is an honor society so initiates must be invited in order to participate. If you have completed at least one co-op term, have a 3.5 GPA or better, received excellent employer evaluations, and are in good standing with the Co-op Office, then you may be eligible. If you meet the above qualifications, you will receive notification by KTE and the Co-op Office.

Why should you join? In KTE, you have the opportunity to meet and share experiences with other co-op students, get to know recruiters from major co-op companies, promote the Co-op Program, and develop your leadership skills. KTE members have what all recruiters are looking for -- great GPAs, work experience, and leadership!

Co-op Scholarships & Awards

Co-op students are also eligible for the following awards and scholarships:

Molly Gottleib Memorial Scholarship

One $500 scholarship, sponsored by the Cockrell School of Engineering, is awarded each year to an outstanding co-op student.

CEIA Co-op Student of the Year

Each year, the Co-op Office selects and nominates one outstanding co-op student for this national award, sponsored by the Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA).