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Alumni Profiles - Lynda Fredette

Environmental health

Job Title and responsibilities:

Manager, Global Environment Health & Safety Compliance Assurance, United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney, Hartford, Conn.

Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corp. company (NYSE:UTX), is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, industrial gas turbines and space propulsion systems. Pratt & Whitney reported an operating profit of $1.99 billion in 2010 on revenues of $12.94 billion. The company’s 36,000 employees support more than 11,000 customers in 195 countries around the world.

Where did you grow up?
Lynnfield, Mass.

Where’s home now?
Windsor, Conn.


Milestones in your professional career after graduating from UMaine?

How did UMaine prepare you for this career?
Environmental engineering and chemistry courses prepared me to understand U.S. environmental regulatory requirements, pollution sources and treatment system design principles. Engineering economics and project management courses helped me manage projects efficiently and cost effectively. Mechanical engineering courses gave me a basic understanding of materials and combustion engine design principles and some of my humanities courses like Chinese history came in handy when I had a couple opportunities to travel to Asia.

Tell us about your work in environmental health and safety, and the biggest challenges in that field today.
In my current role, I manage EHS regulatory compliance programs, audit programs, acquisition integration for new facilities, training, and performance metrics reporting company-wide. Some of the key challenges in the EHS field for growing global businesses include:

How has your engineering field changed since you left UMaine?
Many companies are expanding their operations worldwide, so there’s greater emphasis on global business processes and collaboration. Environmental regulatory requirements have grown much broader and more stringent both in the U.S. and abroad (e.g., the EU) In addition, there’s much greater emphasis on design for sustainability (especially reduced environmental “footprints” with emphasis on carbon) with improved consideration of product lifecycle impacts. ISO14001 and OHSAS 18001 have driven improved EHS management systems for many companies. Safety has been combined with environmental engineering at many large companies. And there’s much more cross-functional teaming between EHS and other departments (e.g., legal, finance, procurement, IT, engineering and operations)

From your perspective, what’s the next big thing in civil engineering?
Both civil and environmental engineers will have greater opportunities to get involved in research and design of more energy-efficient structures and products as the world places greater emphasis on reduced carbon footprints. Design of LEED-certified buildings is one example of this.

Why did you choose civil engineering?
Initially I was interested in architecture and structural engineering, so civil engineering was the right choice for that career path. Later, I discovered I enjoyed environmental engineering more.

Why UMaine?
My dad and older sister both graduated from UMaine, and I really enjoyed my summers in the UMaine High School Juniors Program. In my senior year of high school, when I compared UMaine to other schools, I found I liked the Civil Engineering Department staff, course offerings, campus environment and friendly culture.

What kinds of research were you involved in as a UMaine student?
I worked on various environmental engineering-related projects for Jerry Lowry, including radon-related research.

When you were at UMaine, what was your favorite place on campus?
The old Bear’s Den. That was a very fun place.

Most memorable UMaine moment?
I especially enjoyed CE1000′s at the Bear’s Den, socializing with my fellow civil engineering students and professors.

While in Orono, I spent too much time:
In my dorm. I wish I had taken more time to enjoy Mt. Katahdin, Bar Harbor/Acadia and other local natural wonders more.

Favorite professor (and why)?
Oh boy. Tough question. There were many professors I appreciated greatly, including Willem Brutsaert (my adviser), Jerry Lowry (my supervisor as a research assistant), Chet Rock (my first environmental course professor) and Tom Sandford (who even let me teach one of his classes last year).  But I’d have to say my favorite was John Alexander.  John was chair of the department while I was at UMaine and was great as an administrator, teacher and adviser. Now he’s a great role model reaching out to alumni, matching donations to a scholarship fund for women in civil engineers, etc.

Class that nearly did you in?
I’ve tried to forget that class. I think (but might be wrong after all these years) the name of it was Indeterminate Structures, and I dropped it after a month or so.  I found the problems to be rather indeterminate.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have …
Taken more business and communications courses. These skills really help engineers advance their careers by taking on administrative/managerial duties in addition to their technical work. I also would have taken an OSHA course, since environmental and safety departments are often combined.

How does UMaine continue to influence your life?
I continue to donate annually to the university and try to do some volunteering. Last year, I had a chance to teach a lecture for CIE 411, and I also helped a female student by answering a survey for one of her classes.

Who is your engineering inspiration?
My dad, Malcolm Knapp BSME ’56. He always encouraged me to do well in math and science, let me “help” him fix things in his workshop, and showed me some of his engineering accomplishments at General Electric in Lynn, Mass., on family days.  Both he and my mom encouraged me to consider engineering.

Best advice to engineering students?
Be sure to take advantage of intern, co-op and mentoring opportunities. Real-world work experience and connections help students choose majors and courses wisely, and find great jobs they’ll enjoy in a tough market.

If not an engineer, what would you be?
Another tough question. Retired? Seriously, I’m not sure. I’ve always been glad I chose engineering.

Image Description: Lynda Fredette

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Contact Information

The University of Maine
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System