When Lexington Peterson took a tour of the Kansas Technology Center at Pittsburg State as a high school senior, Assistant Professor Jeanne Norton handed her a plastic water bottle and sealed the deal on her future career field: Plastics Engineering Technology.

Attracted to the 100 percent placement rate, she knew she wouldn’t have to worry about a job. But Peterson, who is pursuing a double major in polymer science, was surprised to find that she also wouldn’t have to worry too much about landing a prestigious research internship: As a freshman, she was accepted by the Center of Bioplastics and Biocomposites, a collaborative project by Iowa State University and Washington State University, as one of only seven.

It was her experience in the classroom with injection molding and extrusion that set her apart from applicants at other schools.

“We’re lucky to have great equipment — new machines — so that when we go into industry, we know how to use what they have,” Peterson said. “It definitely will give us an advantage.”

She was one of three students from Pittsburg State accepted for research internships over the summer: Kylie DeClue, a sophomore from Parkville, Missouri, was accepted by Virginia Tech’s Macromolecular Innovation Institute. Shelby Bicknell, a May graduate who has returned to campus this fall to work for Norton as a graduate student in the Polymer Chemistry lab, was accepted by Iowa State.

Professor Paul Herring said internships aren’t required, but they make graduates much more employable.

“They rise to the top,” he said. “And this research opportunity for all three of them is unique. We think it speaks well of our program. To our knowledge, this is the first time Pitt State students have been chosen for such internships.”