Discovering Unexpected New Career Paths Through Co-op

Matthew Bowman, E’25, chemical engineering and physics, had two co-ops that took him in very different directions, but it meant he was able to find a unique career path in 3D printing he didn’t initially consider. He’s now looking forward to seeing where that path takes him.

Matthew Bowman, E’25, chemical engineering and physics, knew Northeastern was the right place for him from the start.

“It was actually the first school that I toured, and I immediately fell in love, immediately saw myself coming to this school,” he says.

Bowman’s first co-op at Phuc Labs as a chemical engineering intern was primarily focused on transport processes. The specific transport process he oversaw and maintained was made to remove ground-up copper pieces from battery waste.

“They had an apparatus that they put together where they would flow water in a cycle and then feed this ground-up battery waste [and] use cameras and computer vision to detect the pieces of copper,” Bowman says.

The copper was then removed from the battery waste using an air jet and recycled.

Although Bowman enjoyed his time at Phuc Labs, he found his second co-op at Fortify, a digital manufacturing company, to be much more impactful on his studies due to their focus on chemical synthesis. His main role at Fortify was to synthesize the resins needed for the company’s 3D printers, and it was a role he ended up enjoying more than he expected. In fact, Fortify has already made Bowman an offer if he decides he wants to return.

“It’s pulled my career almost completely towards the 3D printing industry,” Bowman says. “So now for my third co-op, I’m either considering going back to Fortify or finding another 3D printing company like Formlabs or something else nearby.”

One month into his time at Fortify, Bowman was met with an unexpected challenge when the company had to lay off over half his team. Over time, he and Thanh Dao, the other co-op he worked with, found the situation to be “a double-edged sword.” Though he was sorry to see his co-workers go, Bowman acknowledged that it gave him the opportunity to take on a more significant role at Fortify.

“That was definitely very challenging for the company as a whole, but once things got up and running again, me and Thanh had a lot more work to do and had a lot more responsibility,” Bowman says.

Despite these layoffs, Bowman still found inspiration in his team leaders who stayed on, including Joseph McDermott, Alex Quinn, and Verena Gargitter.

“They were very dedicated, and they made me want to do better for the company,” Bowman says.

In the face of this adversity, Bowman found that he came out of his co-ops at Phuc Labs and Fortify with much better team-building skills. As a result of having a smaller team, he and his co-workers were quicker to rely on each other and help each other out. This stronger mentality carried over to his approach to his studies.

Bowman at work in the experimental design lab.

“This semester, I am taking both Separations and Process Analysis and an experimental design lab,” Bowman says. “Both of those are very group-based… and I feel like my work at Fortify has definitely helped me get better with working with other people.”

The experimental design lab in particular has given Bowman the chance to bring the hands-on experiences of co-op back into the classroom.

“Since Fortify was a smaller company, they didn’t really have a process room where they had valves and big reactor tanks, while the experimental design lab class gives me hands-on experience with that kind of stuff,” Bowman says.

These two co-ops helped Bowman open his mind to more potential career opportunities, and he now feels fully ready to get out into the workforce.

“Before my first co-op, I had a very big interest in energy… and I [wanted] to go into some sort of renewable space, guaranteed,” he says. Now, what’s most important to him is that his work is enjoyable, meaningful, and leaves a positive impact on the world.

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering