2008 CAFCE Co-op Student of the Year Nominee: Katelyn Mueller

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2008 CAFCE Co-op Student of the Year Nominee: Katelyn Mueller

By: Kelsey Newsham | OLC Host
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As a life guard, swim instructor and generally someone who loves all things aquatic, Katelyn Mueller was surprised to find herself enjoying her Co-op work term in landlocked Germany this past year. The Co-op experience not only reminded Katelyn of her love for ocean rich Vancouver; it also caught the attention of Sue Stanley, former Science and Environment Co-op Coordinator who nominated Katelyn for the Canadian Association for Co-op Education (CAFCE) Student Award.

The award recognizes a variety of achievements such as job performance, academic performance and responsibility, and contributions to their employer, Co-operative Education and the community at large. For Katelyn, a Molecular Biology and Biochemistry major, the nomination for her work term with the Albert Ludwigs University of Frieburg in Germany, is quite an honour.

How did you feel when you found out you were nominated for the CAFCE award?

I was quite honoured when I found out. Sue explained the whole process of how nominees are chosen along with the qualifications and application process. I’m definitely honoured they chose me and am appreciative of the nomination.

Why did you join Co-op?

One of the reasons I came to SFU was because of the great reputation of the Co-op Program. In high school I did a career preparation program which is similar to Co-op but on a much smaller scale. In the program I gained some work experience and really enjoyed it. I waned to do more because I realized I could learn a lot from actually applying what I learned in school.

You have completed one Co-op term in Montreal and two in Germany; did you always want to travel with Co-op?

Yes, it started in grade 12 when I did a whirlwind school trip to Italy for. I loved it so much that I wanted to come back and live in Europe for a longer period of time. I realized that I could do that for eight months through the Co-op program. One of the reasons I did my second Co-op in Montreal was to use it as a stepping stone. I had never lived away from Vancouver before and I wanted to see how I would handle it. My Montreal experience went really well so I thought I was ready to go internationally.

You were nominated for your work term in Germany; can you describe the work you were doing with the University of Freiburg in Germany?

I worked in the field of protein engineering in the department of Biology. My project mostly consisted of protein expression, purification and characterization. Essentially, we tried to use directed evolution to design proteins more well-suited for potential later use in cancer therapeutics.

What was the best part of your job and/or your experience in Germany?

It is hard to pick one single aspect of my experience. I deeply appreciate that I was given a huge amount of independence to carry out exciting research in a well-funded lab. And at the same time, I had the experience of being fully immersed in a different culture and language that I was not all that familiar with. This was rewarding in that it has given me a totally new perspective on different cultures and lifestyles and now that I have returned, how I view living in Vancouver. I am so grateful I have had this opportunity!

As a fourth year student preparing for graduation in a year, has the work you’ve completed through Co-op given you a sense of direction?

Yes, that was another reason why I wanted to go into Co-op. I knew I loved research and I had a brief exposure to it in high school so I knew I wanted to do some kind of medical research in university. I then tried to get Co-op experiences that were as varied as possible – I worked in academia and industry, and internationally. In the end, I have realized I still want to potentially do research but go through the venue of medical school to do it. After reflecting on all my experiences, I think medical school might give me the best variety of opportunities to do the things I love. I’m also really interested in the applications of the research I have been doing so I would have the possibility to do research or also be involved in the application of the research. Right now I’m preparing to write the entry exam (MCAT) and then I’ll go from there.

The OLC wishes both Katelyn and her fellow CAFCE SFU nominee Malcolm Lalkaka good luck with their nominations.

Beyond the Article

Read about fellow 2008 nominee Malcolm Lalkaka.

Posted on November 05, 2010