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Nicholas Pranjatno

SFU Student Undergraduate
Science › Physics
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

Position Title
Experience Faculty
Reflecting back on my co-op experience, I had the chance to grow academically and professionally. Applying my knowledge that I learned through courses and applying it to understand the theory behind the electron microscope made me realize the beauty behind science
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Preparation Tips for Future Students

The best way to prepare before starting your work term is to do some research about your company. Some of the things I have done to prepare are to look up the company's vision and mission, learn more about the things your company does and study your duties listed in the job posting. Preparing before starting your work will make your training and orientation from your supervisor go much smoother, as well as show your interest in working for their company. Also, be prepared to learn a lot as the knowledge and skills you acquire in school may differ substantially from what you will encounter in the workplace. 

SFU library has a nice collection of books where you can read the methods and theories of any topic. Reading introductory texts such as journals or textbooks can help impress your coworkers as most new co-op students do not know much about the topic. Gaining a head start and familiarizing yourself with a topic can make you stand out and establish a good reputation.

My advice for future students in their job search is to consider volunteering for various fields. Personally, I volunteered in a research lab since I knew that I wanted to do research. But for others who may not know their interests, volunteering can help discover what you enjoy without the long-term commitment. Additionally, having volunteering experience also helps with building a stronger resume. 

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

During my first weeks at 4D LABS, I was given a tour of the lab, took chemical safety courses and x-ray safety courses. Getting trained on safety is important, especially in a lab setting where there are many dangerous chemicals. I also had training on the characterization tools that I will be responsible for such as the scanning electron microscope and optical microscope. Getting trained on the microscopes and understanding the fundamentals was important as a significant part of my job involves training new users. The first couple weeks were difficult because there was a huge learning curve. 

The first weeks was also the time that I got to know people around the lab. I pestered other lab members in hopes to see them operating their tools, asked a bunch of questions and generally got to know them better. I believe that the first weeks were the most important to introduce myself as my coworkers have been undoubtedly helpful throughout my time at 4D LABS. After spending time working there and learning from my mistakes, I was able to integrate into the workplace.  

Learning and Adaptation

Material science is a multidisciplinary field of chemistry and physics. As someone who is experienced in physics, but has limited knowledge in chemistry, I had to learn many things on the job. I had to learn the theory and application of scanning electron microscopes, learn how to prepare samples and learn the physical and chemical processes used in creating new materials. Some of the things I learnt during my co-op were from reading articles, but most from observing my supervisor and coworkers. Recognizing that asking questions is acceptable and learning from coworkers accelerated the adaptation process. 

Adapting to a work setting was difficult, especially since this was my first work term. Shifting from a structured academic schedule to the dynamic nature of a work setting can be overwhelming. I had to learn to manage my time effectively and prioritize tasks to maintain productivity and meet deadlines. The communication styles in a work setting are also different compared with a university environment. I had to adapt to a more formal and professional communication style while maintaining clarity and conciseness.

Accomplishments and Challenges

An example of a challenge I faced during my co-op was conducting an experiment for an industrial client. This particular experiment required thermally shocking particles, which would cause shattered particles to go everywhere and pose safety and contamination issues. After discussing with the team and brainstorming ideas, we decided that thermally shocking particles at lower temperatures would yield similar results. This project was challenging because it was one of the first complex projects that I was involved with which required a team effort. This challenge taught me many experimental techniques, clarified other projects and made me understand the importance of teamwork.

I have made significant contributions to 4D LABS by improving operating procedures for multiple tools. By implementing these improvements, users could refer to the standardized operating procedures for guidance, leading to a streamlined workflow.  Additionally, I added a comprehensive section on particle size analysis, focusing on utilizing ImageJ software. This addition enabled others who are interested to effectively utilize the software for their research purposes.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

Some of the memorable team building activities during my work term were going outdoors, enjoying the summer weather and indulging in food. However, the most fun activity in my opinion was our weekly ping pong activity. The people at 4D LABS, including myself, absolutely love ping pong! It allowed us to unwind, socialize, and build strong bonds while enjoying friendly competition and laughter. The ping pong games created a positive and vibrant work environment, making my time at 4D LABS truly unforgettable. 

Reflection & Tips

Reflecting back on my co-op experience, I had the chance to grow academically and professionally. Applying my knowledge that I learned through courses and applying it to understand the theory behind the electron microscope made me realize the beauty behind science. My curiosity to learn more about physics was strengthened after this experience. I also recognized that I had developed problem-solving skills, communication skills, technical skills and time management during my co-op. These skills and experiences gained show my growth academically and professionally.

Each day has its own set of challenges to overcome. Thanks to the support of my supervisor and coworkers, I gained hands-on experience over time and the results showed in my work. I had multiple chances to apply my academic knowledge to real-world challenges, which was extremely rewarding. Overall, my co-op experience has made my future academic goals much clearer and opened up my career paths. Doing a co-op has been my greatest decision and I cannot wait to start my next co-op.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

Since 4D LABS is an open access lab, the most valuable aspect of this experience was the ability to work for a large spectrum of clients. I had the opportunity of working with a diverse range of clients, spanning from semiconductor companies to quantum computer projects, and from construction manufacturers to clean energy initiatives. Working closely with my clients and helping them achieve their research goals was incredibly valuable to me. Being exposed to the industry has motivated me to work harder. Understanding the challenges and limitations that research in material science faces has inspired me to pursue meaningful contributions to the industry. 

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

This co-op experience has been instrumental in developing my experimental, organizational, and communicational skills. The practical experiences I gained in utilizing characterization tools like the SEM has added significant value to my skill set, making me a desirable candidate for various research companies. As someone aspiring to pursue a career in research, these skills are invaluable.

This experience has also enriched my academic studies by honing both my experimental and writing skills. The ability to conduct thorough experiments and communicate the findings effectively is critical for crafting a successful thesis. This co-op has provided me with a solid foundation to excel in my academic pursuits and prepare me for future research endeavors.

Advice for Future Students

My advice for future students who have successfully landed a co-op in material science is to make full use of your opportunities. You can take advantage of the unique chance that you are using expensive tools that not many people have the chance to utilize. Do not be afraid to seek out and ask for training on any tools that you are interested in. You can also attend conferences and seminars to expand your network beyond your immediate workplace. Networking with professionals from other organizations can provide you with a broader perspective on the field.

Another useful tip for students doing a co-op is to keep a record of your accomplishments and experiences during the co-op. Not only will this documentation be valuable when updating your resume, it will also be useful when discussing your achievements in future job interviews.  Making this record also helps with self-reflection and outlining personal growth.