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Getting a head start on STEM careers

By Pamela Gregg, Communication Administrator, UDRI

University of Dayton third-year mechanical engineering student Mark Weyler says his coursework is giving him a solid foundation for an engineering career. But it’s the two years he’s spent simultaneously working on government-sponsored research at UD’s Research Institute that have given him “unteachable skills” that will let him hit the ground running at hiring time, Weyler said.

Weyler, who works in the Support Equipment and Vehicles team in UDRI’s Power and Energy division, is the University’s Student Employee of the Year. The award recognizes outstanding contributions and achievements of students who work while attending college.

His supervisor, group leader Dave Koukol, nominated Weyler for demonstrating initiative and drive that set him apart as a natural student leader, one whose confidence and abilities are tempered by genuine humility and respect for others,” Koukol said. “Mark has an extremely strong work ethic, a unique willingness to learn, a keen attention to detail and a high level of integrity which, along with his technical aptitude, have made him an invaluable member of our team.”

Weyler, whose work has encompassed database creation, materials and structures testing, parts analysis, performance specs development, reviewing countless technical documents and more, will tell you not all of those skills came naturally.

“I had to go out of my comfort zone a bit to work with people I don’t know to solve issues,” Weyler said. “I’ve learned to communicate well with technicians and my co-op peers, which is really important when you’re put on the spot to solve problems.

“Working on real contracts, you’re given deadlines that you’re expected to meet without reminders,” Weyler added. “You have to be responsible and accountable. The math and science material I’m learning in the classroom provides a great foundation, but being able to apply these tools within the context of a real research program is invaluable. This experience is not only an amazing resume booster, but I will be well prepared for a good job after graduation. ”

Each year, some 300 undergraduate and graduate UD students work on sponsored research programs alongside faculty and UDRI researchers in labs on campus and at Wright-Patterson Air Force base. Combined with classroom education, these experiences prepare students to seamlessly step into jobs in technology, the sciences and engineering upon graduation.

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