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Discovering herself through co-op and extracurriculars

Last year, 15 per cent of approximately 4,800 undergraduate students in the Faculty of Engineering were international, coming from nearly 60 countries. Biotechnology student Oluwatosin Odubanjo from Ogun, Nigeria, was one of them.

Third-year biotechnology student Oluwatsoin Odubanjo realized when she arrived at her co-op that there would be a lot of opportunity for critical thinking, creativity, and independence, with plenty of room for growth and discovery thrown into the mix for a unique first co-op experience.

Enhancing the academic knowledge of students and providing opportunity to apply their learning is a focus of the Engineering Co-op Program at McMaster University, and Odubanjo took full advantage of the four months she spent at Vanwyn Incorporated, a startup located at McMaster Innovation Park.

While the planning, logistics, research that went into building a particular part of the focus project that summer taught Odubanjo the value of taking initiative and of thinking “outside the box,” the co-op experience provided her with an opportunity to discover something she considers even more important.

“It gave me a chance to take a good look at what life is like after graduation and realize to bring something to life, you need to use your creativity," says Odubanjo. "My creativity at my co-op was greatly put into play."

She realized that life after graduation from McMaster would mean taking what she learned in the classroom and applying it to real world issues, and that in order to be successful at the co-op, she needed to put in the extra hours as well.

“In that sense, co-op made me career-ready. It gave me a glimpse of what it’s going to be like once school is over.”

Odubanjo admits that co-op seemed daunting at the beginning, given her supervisors allowed her to be very hands-on and develop her sense of learning through independent discovery. There was no one-on-one supervision, which Odubanjo appreciates, because it gave her the chance to develop her sense of independence through trial-and-error. Her discovery of what worked and what didn’t for the project she was developing—an antenna for a geostationary satellite that could carry loads from earth to space—was due to her own curiosity and persistence.

“Persistence was key," says Odubanjo. "And patience."

Odubanjo’s passion for the Biotechnology program is balanced by her involvement in extra-curricular activities, including the McMaster Debate Team and the McMaster African Association of Students. Her circle of friends from the lab widened when she joined these extra-curriculars, but Odubanjo has never found it a challenge at McMaster to make friends.

“Getting to know people at McMaster is easy,” she says. “People are willing to share notes and lend a helping hand when you need it.”