International co-op and studies enrich computer science student’s experience

Undergraduate Tosha Bapat came to UC from India, studied in Hong Kong and co-oped in Japan

University of Cincinnati student Tosha Bapat came into the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) unsure of which major to pursue. Starting in the First-Year Engineering Program and exploring a variety of courses helped Bapat discover her passion: computer science. 

As she prepares to graduate this spring, Bapat — who was named CEAS Undergraduate Engineer of the Month — shares her story through cooperative education (co-op) jobs in both industry and research, a year spent studying and working abroad in Hong Kong and Japan, and her commitment to making a difference through student groups. 

Why did you choose UC?

Like many others, I was attracted to UC because of the co-op program. Graduating with a year and half of professional work experience was an opportunity I didn't want to pass up, and the thought of seeing snow was pretty exciting. I didn't know anyone in Cincinnati at the time, but everyone was so welcoming that it didn't matter!

Why did you choose to major in computer science?

Tosha Bapat headshot

Tosha Bapat. Photo/provided.

I started off at UC in the First-Year Engineering Program, the "undecided engineering" program. I switched to mechanical engineering, but taking the Models I and II classes (about MATLAB) pushed me towards computer science. I enjoyed the process of solving a given problem with a few lines of code. The idea that digital solutions don't have geographical limitations was thrilling to me and I loved that computers can impact every industry out there. 

Now that I'm close to graduating, I want to work as a User Experience (UX) Designer where I can improve digital experiences for everybody, by improving and innovating on accessibility measures. I'm specifically interested in finance, automobile and education industries. 

What was your co-op experience like?

I have done four different co-ops. My first was as a business intelligence intern at David J Joseph Company. I was responsible for creating and fixing data reports for decision makers. I also supported the team through their biggest project of the year: a data warehouse migration. I stayed at the same company for my second co-op but moved teams. I worked as an application developer intern for a semester and I collaborate with 10 other developers to add features and fix bugs in web applications. 

My next co-op was a little different — doing research for Dr. Nan Niu, associate professor of computer science. I investigated the automation of detecting vulnerabilities, or "security holes," in web applications. I also had the opportunity to work with two Cincinnati Public School teachers for my research. 

My final co-op rotations were at Mitsubishi Fuso in Japan, where I was an intern for the Human Machine Interaction team. I worked on multiple projects, starting with market research on HMI in competitors’ vehicles, and ending with a user research study on the digital interface of a Tesla. 

What were the best parts about co-op?

My favorite part about co-op is that I got to experience so many areas within my field. I now have work experience with data, development, research and R&D in a huge company. The biggest highlight was the chance to work with a global team in Japan for six months, while immersing myself in a new culture. By doing so many different co-ops, I have been able to narrow down a specific field that I want to work in post-graduation. 

By doing so many different co-ops, I have been able to narrow down a specific field that I want to work in post-graduation.

Tosha Bapat computer science '21

What are some of the most impactful experiences during your time at UC?

My five years here have been packed with experiences, so I'll just give my top three.

Spending a year abroad during my program: I spent one semester in Hong Kong as a study abroad, and then went to Japan for two semesters. The one year I spent abroad really helped me understand myself better and discover what my dream job is. (It involves traveling!)

A young woman stands in front of a Torii gate at a trail in Kyoto, Japan.

Tosha Bapat visited Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan, during her international co-op in Kawasaki, Japan. Photo/provided.

Women in Leadership and Learning (WILL): I graduated from a two-year feminist leadership program, and the diverse knowledge I gained from that experience still guides me today when it comes to designing and ideating digital services. It helped me gain a better understanding of what universal accessibility, equity and inclusion look like.

Being a part of the international student community: IPALs (International Partners and Leaders) is a club at UC that supports international students by helping form community. I joined this group in my second year, and have never looked back. It has been so amazing meeting people from so many cultures and learning about the world, while also learning to do better.

What accomplishment or experience brings you pride?

Looking back at the last five years, I am really proud of how I have stood up for myself to get the opportunities I wanted. Being an international student is hard for so many reasons, and engineering is not easy either. Despite the barriers, I was able to go after unique experiences like study abroad, co-op abroad, clubs and more because I was passionate about making my degree more than a degree.

Do you have any advice for prospective students?

No matter which field you go into, remember that staff and faculty at UC are there to support you and your goals. But they won't know how to support you unless you ask them. Ask questions (even the ones that involve deadline extensions!), don't assume answers — it'll take you a long way.

Featured image at top: On co-op in Japan, computer science student Tosha Bapat poses in front of the office of her employer, Mitsubishi Fuso, by their flagship electric truck. Photo/provided.  

Interested in becoming an engineering Bearcat?

Learn more about co-op, majors, campus life and more through the College of Engineering and Applied Science Viewbook