Celebrating 100,000 co-op work terms


- Katy DeCoste

Grindlay at the CSA.

For a physics and astronomy student like Tess Grindlay, a summer spent working with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) on the James Webb Space Telescope is nothing short of a dream job.

“As a physics and astronomy student, I had heard about space missions when they were launching or when they made a significant discovery,” says Grindlay. It was hard to imagine getting the chance to work on one of those missions as a student.

But Grindlay did just that when she landed a co-operative education (co-op) work term with the CSA last summer. Co-op offers students paid work experience in their field before they graduate. “While working at the CSA, I got the chance to experience the work that goes on at all stages of a mission,” Grindlay says.

A history of hands-on learning

Grindlay’s co-op work term is one of more than 100,000 that students UVic students have completed since the program was established in 1976 in the Departments of Chemistry and Physics. The program secured 58 placements in its first year; today it includes 13 co-op offices that provide opportunities for students in nearly every academic program at UVic. The program is indebted to Graham Branton, its longest-service director who dedicated 17 years to the development of UVic Co-op.

From designing innovative firefighting techniques to helping research less-toxic cancer treatments, thousands of students have contributed to their communities and organizations, bringing their academic learning into the workplace while gaining hands-on experience in their fields.

Making a real impact

During Grindlay’s time with the CSA, the James Webb Space Telescope’s first set of fully calibrated images and spectroscopic were released. The powerful infrared telescope has been in development for over two decades and was launched December 25, 2021, as the result of a collaborative effort between NASA, the European Space Agency and the CSA.

“Experiencing the announcement of these unprecedented, beautiful images while employed by the Canadian Space Agency and assisting on the project was so exciting to me. It is a moment I will always be grateful for and will never forget,” Grindlay says. 

Making professional connections

Grindlay is excited to continue working with the CSA part-time while completing her fourth year of study.

I think co-op helps students see what life could look like post-graduation, it makes the thought of employment after university less mystifying. Co-op really helped me wrap my head around what I could find myself doing after completing my university education, as well as gain related work experience.”

—UVic co-op student Tess Grindlay

Do you have a co-op story to share? Whether you’ve been a co-op employer or co-op student, we’d love to hear from you at evcoop@uvic.ca, as we celebrate 100,000 placements.


In this story

Keywords: co-op, astronomy, employment

People: Tess Grindlay

Publication: The Ring

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