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Early Work Experience Helps Graduate Jump-start Career

By the time Andrew "AJ" Murphy started his first job shortly after graduating from ESF's paper engineering program in December 2014, he had already worked six months in a co-op job setting, completed an internship and spent a summer working in a laboratory through the prestigious Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

"The experience I got was hugely beneficial to what I'm doing now," he said. "Experience like that works for paper mills but also for a lot of other jobs. "

Murphy said his rich work experience as an ESF student taught him to work with people of different ages and different skill sets. "It's about being comfortable in a work environment," he said. "This isn't college where you are coming in with 400 people at the same time and you're all in the same boat. You're coming into a place where people already work successfully as a team and you have to be able to find your niche."

Murphy graduated from ESF in December 2104 with a degree in paper engineering. After graduation, he began working as a process engineer in the pulp mill at International Paper's facility in Ticonderoga, New York.

"It involves a lot of thinking to solve problems and optimize processes," he said. "I work on a lot of little puzzles, fixing problems that arise. I enjoy it. Every day is different. I'm not sitting at a desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It keeps you on your toes."

Murphy's work experience began early in his college career. He began his six-month co-op at Rock-Tenn Corrugated Packaging in Solvay, New York, as a sophomore, right after taking an introduction to papermaking class. He also did an internship with Kemira, a chemical company that serves the paper industry. His REU experience was at Auburn University, where he researched the separation and purification of fermentation products in a novel process to create hydrocarbons (fuel).

Murphy knew as a high school student that he wanted to focus on engineering. A factor in ESF's favor, he said, was the affordability and the scholarship support he received along the way from the Syracuse Pulp and Paper Foundation.

"Tuition at ESF was practically free for me," he said. "I knew I wouldn't be someone who graduates from college $80,000 in debt and struggles to find a job."