Eeman Abdulkadir (ChemE 2T3 + PEY) always knew she wanted to study engineering, as she was drawn to problem-solving. “I really liked the wide career options available through the field of chemical engineering and the flexibility to explore my interests during university,” recalls Eeman on why she chose the discipline. “I chose to study at U of T Chemical Engineering as it’s consistently ranked first in Canada.”
Since her first year in ChemE, Eeman jumped right into building experiences outside of the classroom. She was elected as the second-year class representative for the U of T Student Chapter of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE), she planned and delivered Sector Info Night where alumni shared their experiences with current students, implemented SheEO where female CEOs/founders spoke about leading innovative companies, and served as an Engineering Student Ambassador providing weekly recruitment tours and providing support to the Engineering Student Recruitment & Retention Office. On top of all this, she was also a summer research student in the Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research (SOCAAR) where she completed a project about the effect of street sweeping on particulate matter concentrations under the supervision of Professor Greg Evans. During her third year, Eeman continued her involvement with CSChE serving as its Advertising Director and also became a First-Year Mentor through Chem Club. Despite being on her PEY Co-op at OPG’s Process Chemistry & Effluents Department, she continues to assist CSChE with its initiatives by acting as its current Secretary.
Eeman recently met up with Jennifer Hsu, ChemE’s Manager of External Relations, to share what students can expect from PEY Co-op and her hopes for the future.
Why did you choose to enroll in PEY Co-op? What were your expectations from PEY Co-op?
Coming into university, I wanted to make sure that I utilized my time to develop as a professional so I could equip myself with the best skillset to succeed in my career of choice after graduation. The PEY Co-op program seemed like the best way to do just that, while also getting a sense of what life could look like after graduation. I also liked the idea of using PEY as a “trial run” to explore my interests. I realized it was very possible that I could like a certain industry on paper but not in practice, so I hoped my placement could reveal whether it was worth pursuing my current interests as a career.
Is your placement meeting your expectations so far?
So far, my placement is exceeding my expectations. As a co-op student, I did not expect to be such a key member in the team. After five months at my placement, I feel like I have been in the team for years. I was excited for my placement because I knew my work would be more on the technical side and it’s been great to enhance that skillset.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I work fully in-person so once I get into the office, the first thing I do is check my emails to see if there is any new information I need to be aware of or meetings to attend. Next, I update the Chemistry Performance board in my office with information about the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Power Generating Stations, including reactor power status, chemistry parameters that are out of specification, and new station condition records that have been filed. As a Chemistry intern, I support the Pickering station more closely and look after three auxiliary systems. My morning also consists of monitoring systems to make sure that all parameters are within specification. If any parameters are found to be out of spec, I take an action to talk with the System Chemists and Lab Technicians to resolve the issue. My morning is closed out with a couple of meetings to align the team on the week’s tasks and current conditions at the stations.
After that, my day-to-day varies based on the priorities that I have during the week. For example, the quarter has just ended so I am responsible for calculating end-of-quarter metrics and reviewing the results with other members of my team. I also track chemistry parameters at both stations and record instances that parameters go out of spec. Throughout all this, I always make sure to keep my email open and check to see if any Process Quality Chemical Approval requests come through and deal with those as they arrive. Lastly, I work on any actions that have been assigned to me. For example, one assignment I am currently working on consists of compiling boiler data for one of the units at Pickering to use for an external assessment.
What challenges have you encountered during your placement and how have you navigated them?
One challenge I have encountered during my placement is handling the amount of knowledge that I have been exposed to. During my training, I learned about nuclear engineering, how the reactors generated power, how chemistry affected the efficiency of the stations, etc. The theory I learned along with getting used to new software and how to complete my responsibilities definitely felt overwhelming at first. To help myself through this transition period, I had to remind myself that nobody expected me to be an expert on the material right away. Everyone on my team was very understanding that I was still getting used to my role and was always open to answering my questions, which helped me settle into my placement. I also had to remind myself to take one day at a time. I knew that I would eventually understand what the team did and know how to complete my responsibilities so there was no point in stressing over it at the start.
What opportunities and projects have your placement exposed you to?
I was able to go on station tours at Pickering and Darlington, which was a great experience to walk through the plants and see how systems work together to produce energy. I have also had the opportunity to monitor auxiliary systems at Pickering that contribute to cooling the reactor and generator, which has exposed me to a more technical side of the company. Lastly, I had a tour of X-Lab, the advanced manufacturing lab at OPG, which was super exciting for me considering I am currently pursuing an Advanced Manufacturing minor.
What have you learned from your placement that will help you during your last year in ChemE and beyond?
One thing that I have learned at my placement is the ability to take a problem and break it down into doable tasks. The problems I have worked through in my ChemE classes are not the same problems I am tasked with at my placement. Without prior knowledge on the material, I have to understand what is being asked of me, identify the goal of the problem, and then breakdown the problem into components that will help me reach a solution. I believe this ability will help me succeed in my last year and beyond.
What industry would you like to work in after graduation?
I would love to work in the energy industry, specifically related to technological solutions that tackle the energy challenges faced today.
Where would you like to be in five years after graduation?
In five years, I would like to have gained work experience that has helped me develop skills in strategic thinking, project management, and data analysis. I believe this range of skills will set the foundation for future success in my career. Additionally, I hope to be pursuing or have completed a Master’s degree related to sustainability.
What are you great at?
Attending international schools growing up, I was surrounded with people from around the world. This experience helped me learn at an early age how to connect with people who were different from myself, and I pride myself on my ability to find common ground with someone who has different perspectives and experiences. I was able to leverage this ability at my placement by building relationships with my coworkers quickly to help my transition from university to the workplace.