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Engineering student is nation's best in co-operative education

By Geoff Ash

Each year, the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education chooses a single student amongst the nation's universities as the Co-op Student of the Year. Laura Pittman, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student at Memorial, is this year's winner.

The award is the highest honour in co-operative education in Canada and a significant milestone for both Ms. Pittman and Memorial University.
"This is the first time a Memorial student has received this award," said Dr. Peter Rans, director, Division of Co-operative Education. "It is a major achievement and a huge recognition for the quality and success of our students and programs."

While Ms. Pittman says it is "always gratifying" to be recognized for the hard work and dedication she's devoted to her education, the potential impact the award has on future engineering co-op students is what means the most.

"I am optimistic that this award can bring additional recognition to the importance of co-operative education, the quality of students that attend Memorial and, in particular, the quality of engineering students," she said. "I am fortunate to always have great support from my family, my mentors while completing my work terms and, of course, the faculty and staff within engineering and co-operative education at Memorial."

Dr. Ramachandran Venkatesan, dean, pro tempore, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, echoed the sentiments of both Ms. Pittman and Dr. Rans.
"Employers often tell us how pleased they are with Memorial's engineering work term students," he said. "This recognition in an elite competition highlights the high quality of our students. This is a proud moment for all of us in the faculty."

Administered by the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education, the recipient is chosen among nominations from universities throughout Canada, and is based on a single work term. Ms. Pittman was nominated for her role with Shell Canada's deep basin drilling team, under the mentorship and supervision of Ken Anderson and Vittorio Spoldi.

Students in any co-operative education program are eligible, but nominations are limited to a maximum of two per institution, making it a significant feat to even be nominated, says Geoff Smith, co-operative education co-ordinator with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

Some of the other institutions who put forth nominations include the Universities of British Columbia, Toronto, Waterloo, Victoria and McGill University.

Mr. Smith championed Ms. Pittman's nomination. He says that despite the high level of the award, he wasn't surprised about her victory.

"Laura's received a long list of scholarships and awards, and glowing recommendations from her employers on every one of her work terms. This program is very demanding, but she's managed to also balance an impressive extracurricular life and maintain exceptionally high performance in everything she does."

That impressive extra-curricular life includes being named a Canadian Interuniversity Sport Academic All-Canadian, and serving as vice-president (academic) of the Engineering Student's Society.

Ms. Pittman is currently on a work term in Calgary, and will be presented with her award at an event the coming months.