Co-op Experience Helps Grad Student ‘Stay Competitive'

When you are one of thousands of students trying to get offered a handful of jobs, what can you do to stand out from the crowd? Mehdi Nourbakhsh has a suggestion.

“Everyone is competing to get a job when they graduate, so how can you be competitive in this group,” said Nourbakhsh, who is earning a Ph.D. in Building Construction and a Master’s in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. “The co-op program is one way to accomplish this.”

The Institute’s Graduate Cooperative (Co-op) Education Program was established in 1983 and is currently the largest in the United States for science and engineering academic programs. It provides graduate students with the opportunity to work at organizations such as Google, GE, and INTEL.

Nourbakhsh discovered the co-op program because friends told him their experiences with the program were an opportunity to learn more about companies they were interested in working at in the future.

From June to August 2014, Nourbakhsh worked at Autodesk, a software corporation in San Francisco. Read on to learn more about his co-op experience.

How did you get connected with Autodesk?

I researched companies I was interested in and decided to apply to Autodesk’s co-op program because they make software for the architecture, engineering, and entertainment industries, which overlaps my interests. After I received an offer letter, Ken Little in the Graduate Co-op Office helped me complete the necessary paperwork.

What was an average day like while participating in the program?

My job involved both working in an office and a tech shop. In the office, I studied the framework of and worked on future design software. In the tech shop, I validated that the software was working by 3-D printing various physical objects.

What does the software do?

Currently, if you want to design something, you need to ask designers to do it. The designers usually come up with a limited number of designs. In the future, everyone will be able to design whatever they need even without prior knowledge in that area. Let’s say you want to design a bike. Using the software I was working on, ordinary people are able to define their goals and the software algorithmically generates a vast number of designs, and optimizes them based on weight, cost, performance, and other users’ preferences.

What was your favorite part of the job?

Everyone I worked with was very friendly and encouraging. And the resources were unlimited. For example, we had access to a tech shop with 3-D printers and any other technology we might need.

What advice do you have for other students who are interested in the co-op program?

Know what type of work you’re interested in doing, and then find a company in that industry that has a co-op program that you can participate in. Also, do your research about the company’s program. Autodesk’s was well organized and engaging — but that’s not the case at other companies. You don’t want to waste the limited time you have for these types of experiences.

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  • Mehdi Nourbakhsh

For More Information Contact

Amelia Pavlik
Office of Graduate Studies

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