This spring, many graduating seniors throughout the University of Kentucky worked to nail down full-time post-graduation jobs. In recent years, the erratic economy has made the nerve-racking search as daunting as ever. Competition for jobs is tight as more applicants apply for fewer jobs. Of course, there will be jobs to be had; however, graduating seniors have known their job searches will require just as much, if not more, concentration, determination and hard work as the classroom.
So it’s understandable that senior chemical engineering major Andrea Ramsey was thrilled to have been hired as a chemical engineer at Eastman Chemical…in November—more than six months before she was scheduled to graduate from UK! “It was fantastic to know I had the job and wouldn’t be competing with anyone. After that, all I had to do was focus on finishing my undergraduate degree,” she beams. Her employment with the Kingsport, TN based company will begin shortly after graduation.
Andrea owes her employment to the College of Engineering’s Cooperative Education Program—also known as Co-op. Through the Co-op program, Andrea experienced three different rotations at Eastman Chemical (spring and fall of 2010 and the summer of 2011), learning how to integrate her undergraduate studies in chemical engineering with company projects and also learning valuable skills not necessarily taught in the classroom, such as sizing a valve. In addition, her Co-op experience allowed her to discover what she did not like—for example, the business side of chemical engineering—which will enable to her to make better career decisions in the future.
“Participating in Co-op required I add an extra year to my degree, but I absolutely loved the Co-op experience and do not regret the extra year,” she said. Her time at Eastman Chemical certainly gave her employer a good idea of the caliber of engineer they would be hiring as well.
What kind of employee will Eastman put to work this summer? Ambitious is a good word to start with when describing Andrea. Consider that she currently holds four different positions in student organizations related to engineering. She is the President of the Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers, Vice-President of Tau Beta Pi, Vice-President of Omega Chi Epsilon and Spring Banquet Director for the Society of Women Engineers. Obviously, she cites her biggest challenge as managing her time and ensuring her studies don’t slip.
Andrea credits Dr. Doug Kalika with offering some of the best classes she has taken thus far. “What I like about Dr. Kalika is that you can never go into his office and say, ‘I don’t understand this.’ If you do, he won’t help you. You have to have a question and show that you’ve really thought about it. If you do that, he will stick with you until you understand. He doesn’t baby anyone.”
Dr. Jeffrey Seay, who is a chemical engineering professor at UK’s Extension Campus in Paducah, worked with Andrea on a research project that involved developing simulation models for biomass conversion processes. “I was immediately impressed with Andrea’s intelligence and work ethic,” he recalls. “Her contributions led to a peer reviewed paper and the chance to present her research at the 2nd International Symposium on Sustainable Process and Product Engineering, in Hangzhou, China, where she was awarded the Best Undergraduate Research Award. It was certainly a pleasure to work with Andrea, and I have no doubt that she has a very bright future ahead of her.”
As Andrea finishes her final semester at UK, she looks back on the past four and a half years and knows chemical engineering was the right choice for her. “Chemical engineering is so multi-faceted,” she reflects. “I’m glad to be going into industry, but I could also pursue research. Someone else might be interested in technical sales, since business people doing technical sales are often former chemical engineers. A chemical engineering degree is a great avenue for all kinds of interests.”