Engineering Co-op Program continues relationship with GE Aviation, providing invaluable student experiences

Sophia with photo of Sanford Moss
By: Erin Philipson

Cornell Engineering has a long history with GE Aviation, most recently Sophia Norwood M.E. ’21 is completing her Co-op at their facility outside of Boston, MA.

Sophia, junior in the Sibley School, has been able to apply skills she developed in MAE courses and her experience as a member of the Resistance Racing project team directly to her Co-op at GE Aviation. During her 16-week Co-op experience, she has been working on a project to move the center of gravity on an engine that doesn’t yet exist. Everyone in Mechanical Preliminary Design, the department in which Sophia works, was tasked with creating a better design for the new engine. Sophia was able to take an old design and reoptimize it - working on the project from start to finish.

The Engineering Co-op Program differs from an internship in that students gain seven months of real-world-experience and graduate on-time – while a typical internship lasts for 10 weeks. Students complete a fall or spring semester plus a summer with one or more Co-op employers – gaining more in-depth industry experience. The Engineering Career Center also monitors the Co-op experience with site visits, evaluation forms, contact with supervisors and assistance with problems while there is no direct Cornell involvement with most internships.

The entire Co-op process felt much friendlier, Sophia noted. “The whole experience felt more personal and guided compared to the traditional internship search. I loved that employers came to campus and I got to have several in-person interviews, which allowed for a more personal connection. I think the Co-op program also feels like a friendly little community,” said Norwood.

The Co-op Program walks students through the process from their very first resume review until they receive an offer – celebrating the achievement with the ringing of the infamous gong in the Engineering Career Center. Melissa Bazley, Director of the Co-op Program, believes the longer duration of a Co-op compared to an internship provides students with the opportunity to take a deep dive into complex projects during their work experience.

“Employers who hire Co-op students regularly tell me that they do so because they realize that there is a significant learning curve for new employees and the longer duration of the work experience enables the students to get acclimated and then take ownership of more in-depth projects,” said Bazley.

GE Aviation has a long history with Cornell Engineering and specifically the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Sanford Moss, the first American aviation engineer to use a turbocharger on an aircraft engine, received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1903. He then went on to work at GE Aviation in the Steam Turbine Department. In 1942, Moss became an aviation consultant to the Army, working secretly to create the 1-A, the first workable jet aircraft engine, using principles from his thesis “the gas turbine an ‘internal combustion’ prime mover.”

This led to the success of the GE Aviation engine business, impacting everything the company has worked on since and about half the airplanes we fly on today. In 1940, Moss was awarded the Collier Trophy, the most prestigious award in aerospace, by the National Aeronautic Association for his work on the turbocharger.

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