Since 2007, University of Maine engineering alumna Kate (Stephens) Beaumont has worked as a structural engineer at one of Maine’s largest employers, Bath Iron Works, owned by General Dynamics. Beaumont, who received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2005 and completed her master’s in mechanical engineering this past summer, works in BIW’s Dynamic Analysis Group, where she engineers equipment foundations to survive shock loads.
Occupation (job title):
I’m an engineer in the dynamic analysis group.
Where did you grow up?
Marblehead, MA until I was 13. Then my family moved to Harpswell, Maine.
Where’s home now:
Years at UMaine:
Degrees at UMaine:
I have a BS in Civil Engineering (structural), and this summer finished an MS in Mechanical.
What research initiatives were you involved in at UMaine:
I did all my research at UMaine at the AEWC. As an undergraduate, I assisted a graduate student researching the creep behavior of wood-plastic composites for use as sheet pile. Then as a senior I got to write my honor’s thesis on the feasibility of turning recycled polypropylene “float rope” into wood plastic decking.
For my master’s thesis, I worked to develop an impact test setup for large-scale composite boat hull panels. Our goal was to compare the abilities of various materials to absorb impacts from wave slamming. That work was part of the Mako project with Hodgdon Yachts.
How did UMaine prepare you for your career as a structural engineer?
One of the things that I found really helpful was the wide range of analysis methods and programs that I was exposed to through my classes and research opportunities. There’s always going to be a lot to learn – especially as a new engineer – and you definitely don’t start out as an expert in anything, but if you’ve had a general overview of the new tasks you’re going to be learning as part of your career it makes it that much easier to hit the ground running.
Describe your job and the kinds of projects in which you are involved:
I engineer equipment foundations to survive shock loads, usually using finite element analysis. At BIW, we use FEMap as our pre- & post-processor, with NEiNastran as the analysis code. Nastran was new to me, so I’m enjoying getting to learn it.
What is it like to be involved in cutting-edge boat building technology in Maine, first with Hodgdon Yachts and now at Bath Iron Works?
Honestly, I think it’s just huge amounts of fun. Especially with something as high-tech as a naval vessel, there are a lot of components that go in to it besides just the small piece that I’m working on. I like getting to see everything come together in the final product – it’s always amazing to me. There’s always something new to work on too, which I really enjoy.
However, my favorite part of working with Hodgdon and at BIW has been the Navy component. I like that I can use my skills to help the sailors in some way. My brother’s in the Navy reserves, and it’s something that’s important to me.
Milestones in your professional career:
My favorite projects are the ones where I have to learn something new – try an analysis method or a software program that I never have before. I’ve gotten to work on quite a few of those, and I’m really grateful for that.
Why did you choose engineering?
I like to know why things work.
And why UMaine for your undergraduate and master’s degrees?
Honestly, UMaine wasn’t originally my first choice as an undergrad. But I loved it once I got there. There were just so many opportunities for research as an undergrad, it was just wonderful for me. Then the opportunity to work on the Mako project came along, and it was exactly what I wanted. I looked at a few other graduate schools, but never found anything else even close. So I stayed! I feel really blessed that things worked out the way they did, since it definitely wasn’t what I had planed!
Your husband, Ryan, also is a UMaine alumnus. What was his major and what career has he pursued after graduation?
Both Ry’s BS & his MS are in Mechanical Engineering. He’s always wanted to work for himself, so after school he started his own company doing consulting. He’s done some analysis, some data collection, some CAD work, some programming - mostly for companies in Maine. He met a lot of the people he currently works for either at UMaine or through people at UMaine, so it was really helpful to him in that respect. He just incorporated this year, which was exciting.
I get to do some analysis work for him on the side too, which is nice. I like the exposure to different projects, and he’s fun to work for.
Who was your favorite UMaine professor and what lessons did he/she teach you that still resonate today?
I think it would have to be a tie between Dr. Bill Davids and Dr. Senthil Vel. The thing I liked most was how excited they seemed about engineering. They were also both very encouraging as professors, and I liked the challenge of their classes. They made you work hard (at least I had to work hard – I’m not going to speak for everyone else), but I really felt like I learned a lot. They both placed a lot of emphasis on understanding the theory behind the equations you were using as well, which I really appreciated.
Most memorable moment at UMaine?
I have to pick one? I think the non-educational things I appreciate most are the Shotokan club, and the friendships. Seriously, we met some just amazing people and I’m grateful to have them in my life. And Woodman’s burgers. Do those count as a moment? And I met Ryan there. That was pretty awesome.
The UMaine class that nearly did you in?
Numerical methods. I took it as a junior to round out a math minor, without any programming experience. I did not exactly shine.
Favorite place on campus?
The climbing gym.
Any advice for UMaine engineering students?
If you want to do something, don’t hesitate to show up and ask. One of the great things about UMaine engineering is how willing the professors and administration are to work with you to help you craft the student experience that you want. I’ve found that’s true outside of UMaine too - you get to do a lot by letting people know you want a chance to dive in and work on something.
Also, know how to use a loop and an if statement before taking numerical methods.
Image Description: Kate Beaumont