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Swanson School Co-op program announces 2012 Student and Employer of the Year

PITTSBURGH  (November 5, 2012) … Recognizing the accomplishments and dedications of students and employers, the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering  Cooperative Education program , or Co-op, has announced its annual Student and Employer of the Year awards. Lauren Sakerka from Washington, Pa., an undergraduate majoring in Chemical Engineering and who participated in a co-op with BASF, was named Student of the Year.  Siemens Energy  was named Employer of the Year. 

"We are very proud of Lauren, who made outstanding contributions and cost-saving measures during her four semesters at BASF," noted Maureen Barcic, Director of Cooperative Education at the Swanson School. "She is the recipient of several chemical engineering scholarships, engaged in research, and was project manager for an Engineers Without Borders program to install a fish farm in Mali, thus enabling the villagers to have an opportunity to maintain the farm and help them become independent. She is the perfect example of a student who takes full advantage of everything that co-op has to offer." 

"The University of Pittsburgh's Cooperative Education program has been a highlight of my undergraduate chemical engineering career and has given me invaluable exposure to the chemical industry," Ms. Sakerka said. "Throughout my four rotations at a BASF facility, I was able to work in the areas of process safety, process optimization, project management and production. The most rewarding experiences where being able to see projects through to completion, helping to implement safety initiatives, and identifying cost savings for the plant. Because my co-op was in Beaver, Pa., I was able to live in Oakland and stay involved with campus organizations. I hope to work in manufacturing upon graduation and continue my extracurricular work with Engineers Without Borders USA."
The other student nominees were:

  • Paul Monroe/Electrical Engineer with NASA/Glenn Research
  • Erica Flinchbaugh/Bioengineer/Cohera Medical
  • Donald Virostek/Computer Engineer/Vocollect
  • Matthew Cimino/Electrical Engineer/GE Energy
  • Declan Wilson/Industrial Engineer/Heinz North America
  • Abigail Kender/Mechanical Engineer/Vocollect
  • Maxwell Pless/Mechanical Engineer/Siemens Energy

"More than 200 employers participate in our co-op program, and all have been tremendous partners with us," Ms. Barcic added. "This year we recognize Siemens Energy as our Employer of the Year for its long-standing participation, its emphasis on developing an excellent co-op program, and for also eventually hiring many of our students who participated in co-op there."

About the Swanson School Co-op Program
Cooperative Education is the rotation between school and full-time work assignments that relate directly to a student's academic discipline. Pitt's co-op program enables students to complement classroom studies with practical experience, technical knowledge, and financial reward. Student works full-time for a term, and then returns to school for full time study. To complete the program requirements and receive certification, engineering students must work a minimum of three four-month terms. To date more than 4,200 students have participated in Pitt's program, with 797 undergraduate and 15 graduate students participating in the 2011-2012 academic year. 


Contact: Paul Kovach