Ben Cook
Undergrad: University of Idaho, Moscow, ID - Chemical Engineering
Track: Polymer Science
Internship: Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I)
Currently at Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I)


What was your undergraduate institution?
I received my B.S. Chemical Engineering from the University of Idaho.
(Go Vandals!)

How did you find yourself at Oregon and what about the program intrigued you?
I found myself at Oregon by random chance. One of my professors mistakenly sent out an informational email about the program to my junior class, thinking that this summer internship program was for undergraduate students. At the time I was taking an undergraduate polymers course and was instantly interested by what the polymer track program had to offer. I held onto the email and when it came time to graduate a year later I knew that I had to apply.

What was the intensive summer like for you?
Unlike most of my peers, I was able to secure my employment prior to coming to Oregon. So all of my focus was available for the classroom curriculum. Having the previous polymer experience from my undergraduate class was a great advantage at the start of the summer, with the first course focusing on many of the introductory topics I had been exposed too. The summer quickly picked up the pace once the laboratory courses began, and it was great to see how the thought process of students from different academic backgrounds (chemists vs. engineers) worked. There was a learning curve in the labs coming from an engineering background. Knowing the more advanced wet chemistry techniques and terminology would have helped, but I was able to absorb a lot of information from my classmates who were more experienced in the lab setting.

Even though I had already found my placement, the professional development portion of the program was very helpful. We were able to learn the ins and outs of resume writing, interviewing skills, and how to professionally network at events and through social media media like LinkedIn.

Where did you do your internship?
I did my internship credits with Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I). CB&I is an international engineering and construction company with a majority of their projects focused on large-scale energy facilities such as oil and gas refineries, nuclear power facilities, and downstream specialty chemicals plants. My position is similar to an intern, but in a more official capacity. I worked as member of the CB&I Training Program (CTP), a two year rotational program, with placements lasting 6 months. During my first two placements I worked in Process Engineering. For my first 6 months I was located in the greater Chicagoland area in IL. And for the second I was located in the greater New York City area in NJ.

Without giving away proprietary info, what was your internship like? What were you responsible for? What was a typical day like?
The training program is a way for recent graduates to get a feel for many of CB&I’s different operating groups. Working as an intern/trainee for a large company has many benefits. I was able to immediately contribute to numerous projects with budgets easily exceeding hundreds of millions of dollars. The program surrounded me with a team of very experienced professionals. They help guide and advise the trainees, while we developed our technical engineering skills as well as the soft skills needed in a team environment. I was given as much responsibility as I asked for, and most of the time a little bit more. My days were always different, but typically it is very task oriented. Our projects typically have predetermined itemized deadlines. This provided us with a very logical approach to completing our goals.

Did you feel the program prepared you for the internship? In what ways?
I feel like the program did an excellent job preparing me for a job. Especially during the final lab, it puts you in a mindset that we were working for a company, and our team had a responsibility to deliver quality results within a tight schedule. I learned in the summer program to expected the unexpected and to be prepared to quickly adapt to new problems that arise. During my time with CB&I I have experienced situations where our team had put a lot of time into a designing a process, only to have the client change the requirements. Being able to take change in stride can be a difficult thing to do, but the program did a great job preparing me for real life situations like this.
The professional development portion of the program also helped with the art of professionally interacting with co-workers and superiors. During my employment I have dealt with a number of problems that were related to what we had learned in the graduate internship program.

How did your internship prepare you for your current position/career path?
The CB&I training program has already exposed me to multiple new engineering tools, industrial standards, and technologies. I am currently still a member of the training program, and will be until the end of 2015. During each rotation I have gained experience that contributes to the next. Although I have some time until I complete my training, I feel confident that I am on my way to a long and successful professional career.