Sarah Hoyt isn't exactly sure which industry she wants to join when she begins her career as a chemical engineer. To get a better feel for the variety of her options, she completed two separate co-ops during the past academic year.
For her first co-op experience, Sarah worked with BaroFold, Inc. in Boulder. According to its website, "BaroFold’s mission is to improve the tolerability, efficacy, and safety of protein therapeutics utilizing its proprietary technology." The company, founded in 2002 by two CU professors, "is focused on chronic indications in which there is significant patient and physician demand for better treatment options." As a co-op, Sarah's job duties included designing and executing her own experiments in support of her projects.
After completing her co-op term with Barofold, Inc., Sarah joined the Protonex, Inc. development team in Broomfield, Colorado. Protonex develops advanced fuel cell power solutions for portable, remote, and mobile applications. Sarah was part of a project team evaluating the propensity for carbon formation in fuel cell processors coupled with solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) systems in order to identify and optimize operating conditions and materials for use in SOFC generators.
"The opportunities have helped open my eyes to the world of research and to better understand what a career in research would be like," Sarah says. "Working in a research lab in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at CU helped me learn about the research process: experimental design, literature reviews, data analysis, data presentation, and application. I also was able to establish the connections that led to my internship at BaroFold. Research at BaroFold and Protonex has helped me figure out what it’s like to do research full time, as well as what it’s like to be in charge of my own research. At CU, a graduate student guided my efforts for the most part. In my internships, I was given a lot more freedom. That freedom also came with a lot more responsibility for designing and preparing my own experiments."
In addition to her professional activities, Sarah is active in programs that promote engineering and provide outreach services for the college. "I enjoy participating in service organizations because it’s a great way to meet people (often with different majors and interests). Doing outreach activities for high school students on behalf of the Society of Women Engineers and Engineering Ambassadors has helped me become more comfortable speaking in front of strangers. In turn, this has helped me improve my presentation skills both at work and in school."
When asked what she would say to other students who are considering getting involved in active learning activities, Sarah responds that she "would recommend getting involved in all three areas (research, professional, and service). Research is an important part of science in general and any future engineer would benefit from exposure to it; service will broaden your perspective, and holding a full-time engineering job is also an important experience. It was not quite what I imagined and the experience has altered my career goals."