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Student Talking to Company Representative at Booth

Engineering Expo Hosted Record Number of Companies


Students from the Tickle College of Engineering met with a record number of companies at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday and Thursday, February 20-21 during the college’s spring expo.

Hosted through the college’s Office of Engineering Professional Practice, the biannual gathering is a chance for engineering students and employers to come together to discuss academically relevant paid co-op and internship opportunities.

This spring’s event included 92 registered companies, helping set a new spring record for the third consecutive year.

Tennessee companies such as Bridgestone, DENSO, Nissan, MAHLE, Radio Systems, Strongwell, TVA, and Volkswagen were among those taking part, as were more nationally known organizations including ABB, Emerson, ExxonMobil, Garmin, PepsiCo, Shaw Industries, and Southern Company.

At the expo, students meet one-on-one with prospective employers, with the second day set aside as an interview day for students to go through a formal interview process with companies that have an interest in them.

The Office of Engineering Professional Practice was founded in 1926 to help engineering students add experience to their education and prepare for the transition from student to employee.

The office maintains relationships with more than 500 businesses and interacts with more than 1,500 undergraduate students each year, helping them achieve more than 500 annual placements with participating companies.

Participation in the program is seen as essential by the Tickle College of Engineering, with 70 percent of eligible students taking part.

Find out more information about the event.

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Tonya Shortt in front of the EPP office

Staff Spotlight: Tonya Shortt


Tonya Shortt joined the college this month as the new assistant director for the office of Engineering Professional Practice. She will provide guidance and support to students seeking co-op and/or internship work experiences relative to their major.

“I’ll also oversee the logistics of our main events like the Engineering Cookout and Engineering Expos, as well as assist the director with program outreach to students and employers,” said Shortt.

She comes to the role with more than 20 years of experience in engineering industries, specifically in manufacturing. Shortt worked closely with the Professional Practice office in her previous position, and also with UT’s Center for Career Development and other universities across the Southeast.

“I understand what employers are looking for and believe that gives me an advantage when trying to assist students,” she said.

Shortt is an East Tennessee native who graduated from Tusculum University in Greeneville with a BS in organizational management and an MS in human resource development. She lives with her husband in Bulls Gap, Tennessee, and is an avid sports fan.

“I love anything sports-related—specifically football, basketball, and softball,” said Shortt, who also participates in sports via co-ed and women’s softball recreational and travel teams.

Zoe Antonas


Zoe Antonas

The featured student this week is Zoe Antonas, a chemical engineering major from Knoxville, Tennessee, who worked for Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tennessee.

Antonas worked in the Additives and Functional Products (AFP) department doing coatings development, specifically in the applied factory coatings group. Her main project was to synthesize multiple solvent borne polyols at various glass transition temperatures in order to make coatings for easy-open-ends (EOE), or the pop-tops on soda cans.

When describing the benefits of her co-op, Antonas says, “There are so many benefits; it’s difficult to choose just one. But I would have to say the most valuable benefit was the experience of working in a true, 40 hr/week job and seeing what it takes to be a good employee. For me, this experience led to confidence. Just seeing how much I learned and improved over the last 10 weeks has helped me realize that I know I have what it takes to eventually be a successful chemical engineer.”

Ryan Durkee


Ryan Durkee

The featured student this week is Ryan Durkee, a Mechanical Engineering major from St. Charles, Missouri, who worked for Southern Company in Birmingham, Alabama.

During his rotation, Durkee worked in Resource Planning, where he worked in projects related to finding the optimal generation reserve margin as well as the integrated resource plan for the next 30 years.

When describing the benefits of his co-op, Durkee says, “I am now comfortable with the corporate work environment and I realized this is the kind of environment I want to work in after I graduate.”

Suzanne Sawicki

Staff Spotlight: Suzanne Sawicki


Suzanne Sawicki’s position within the college’s office of Engineering Professional Practice is Coordinator II. That simple title only hints at the crisscrossing list of ways that she supports that office’s programs throughout the year.

She assists students with co-op and internship assignments and opportunities, resume writing, ambassador presentations, job-related seminars, and an alphabet of campus organizations including SWE, TLSAMP, ECAP, IEEE, BMES, NSBE, and MABE.

Sawicki’s secret weapons include inside tips on mock-interview success—how to leave a lasting impression.

“I’m a former recruiter in working industry for one of the world’s top defense contractors, Northrop Grumman,” she said. “Coupled with my 20-plus years of technical recruiting and HR experience, that positions me to help students from what we call ‘both sides of the playing field.’ Landing a position in working industry consists of a combination of items.”

Sawicki knows what recruiters are thinking and what they need from engineering students. She has traveled on the same college circuit with many of the recruiters that visit the UT campus.

“It has helped me in my almost 13 years here at UT to assist our students with not only their co-op or intern assignments, but also assist when it comes time to land the permanent job with a company,” said Sawicki. “A solid GPA, hands-on engineering experience, and a standout resume and interview position a student for multiple job offers.”

She is always happy to share her recruiting experience with staff, faculty, and students.

“Recruiting is not as easy as it looks or sounds,” said Sawicki. “You spend not only a large amount of time on the road marketing your company to potential students and future employees, but you learn the art of conversation.”

She guides students toward the key ingredients that potential employers are looking for.

“If you have passion, good communication skills, organizational skills, along with adaptability and—the most important skill—likeability, you are what is termed ‘golden’ in working industry,” she said.

Sawicki was born in Pittsburgh, where her father was a design engineer with US Steel. Her family moved to Columbus, Ohio, when she was young and she later graduated from Ohio University, where she majored in organizational communication minored in marketing. She has traveled—and recruited—around the world thanks to husband Robert’s military career. Their son, Mason, recently graduated from UT and works for FedEx Freight.

She maintains an active lifestyle even when not helping make career connections for students. Running, traveling, and water skiing are some of her favorite activities.

“I used to wakeboard,” she added with a laugh. “But now I’m fairly certain that would end in disaster.”

Landen McDonald


Landen McDonald

The featured student this week is Landen McDonald, a mechanical engineering major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who worked for Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Oak Ridge.

McDonald worked on the instrument development team in the Neutron Science Division at ORNL, where he worked on a number of experiments and projects at both the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). His most involved assignment while working at ORNL has been as the lead engineer on the “High Resolution Validation of New Generation Turbulent Flow Models Using Neutron Beams and Laser Fluorescence in Cryogenic Helium” Experiment (a.k.a. The Turbulence Experiment). This experiment has now run for three cycles on the LARMOR beam line (CG-4B) at HFIR, which is the newest experimental beam line at the facility.

When describing the benefits of his co-op, McDonald says, “Without a doubt, the most valuable thing that I have gained from this internship has been leadership experience. With The Turbulence Experiment, my boss had very high expectations for me and believed that I should be the lead. After nearly seven months on this project, I can honestly say that this has been the most rewarding experience of my life, and I will take the lessons that I have learned from this job with me for the rest of my life.”

David Mejia Fernandez


David Mejia Fernandez working at Denso

The featured student this week is David Mejia Fernandez, a mechanical engineering major from Loudon, Tennessee, who worked for Denso Manufacturing in Maryville, Tennessee.

During his rotation, Mejia Fernandez worked in the Machine and Tool (M&T) department, working on a new process for a ceramic heater, which forms part of an O2 sensor. His task was to create a new process, build a working prototype, and test it to ensure that it is an improvement over the current process.

When describing the benefits of his co-op, Mejia Fernandez says, “The most valuable benefit I received is networking. I’ve met many people working for Denso and other companies which opens up opportunities for future employment.”

Ashley Weaver


Ashley Weaver

The featured student this week is Ashley Weaver a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major from Talbott, Tennessee, who worked for MAHLE in Morristown, Tennessee.

Weaver worked in the heavy-duty diesel department at MAHLE Engine components. For the majority of her projects, she tested the cutting and coating fluids for optimized performance of monotherm, monoweld, and ferrotherm steel pistons.

When describing the benefits of her co-op, Weaver says, “I really enjoyed being able to perform these tests in a real world scenario and not just in a chemistry lab. I was also able to learn new processes with chemicals that I had not learned in chemistry labs yet.”

Austin Winstead


Austin WinsteadThe featured student this week is Austin Winstead, a mechanical engineering major from Nashville, Tennessee, who worked for Brasfield & Gorrie in Birmingham, Alabama.

During his rotation, Winstead worked in Augusta, Georgia, on the Clubhouse Building at Riverside Village, attached to the left field wall of the Augusta Green Jackets Baseball Stadium. Working under the project manager, he handled the quality control tracking and the over completion schedule tracking of the individual subcontractors, oversaw the punch list for the Clubhouse building, and wrapped up the punch list for the Ballpark.

Winstead also gained significant improvements in reading technical drawings and understanding the design/construction process. As well as gaining an introduction to learning P6, a scheduling software, he had more exposure to construction management software like Plangrid.

When describing the benefits of his co-op, Winstead says the most valuable benefit is, “Real World Experience. Actually being able to go and speak with people in the field who have been doing construction for over 20 years was a valuable resource. Also, professional skills and people skills just by coordinating with multiple companies in order to complete a project.”

Sarah Hrach Speaks with Rep from PepsiCo at the Engineering Expo

Engineering Expo Sets Records for Participation…Again

The Tickle College of Engineering’s Office of Engineering Professional Practice recently held its annual fall expo, once again setting records for the number of students, businesses, and organizations participating.

“The Engineering Expo is our premier on-campus recruiting event,” said director Todd Reeves. “Employers look to us to help UT engineering students participate in their cooperative education and/or internship educations assignments in their organizations.”

The expo gives students and employers a chance to meet on day one, followed by interviews where there was common interest on the second day.

This fall, 93 employers came and spoke with 972 students, resulting in more than 1,200 interviews being scheduled. Five years ago, by comparison, there were 59 employers and 478 students participating.

Reeves said that his office tries to match students with employers that are closely aligned with their academic work and career goals. All of the positions UT students take are paid, meaning students earn an income while furthering their studies with practical, real-world experience.

“Nearly 45 percent of our graduating seniors each year have participated in our program,” Reeves said, “The expo is the primary engine that drives the connection between students and companies each semester.”

The Office of Engineering Professional Practice was founded in 1926 and is the second oldest program of its kind in the south, and one of the oldest in the nation.

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