Some of our best engineers!
Karen Hastings ’81: Alumna combines engineering expertise with long-held interest in law
Karen Hastings graduated from the University of Maine in 1981 with a degree in chemical engineering and received her law degree from George Mason University in 1988. Since 2007, she has served as an Administrative Patent Judge with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Hastings was intrigued by the USPTO from the moment she learned about its existence.
“I read an article when I was a junior in high school about this hot field called patent law,” she recalls. “I was intrigued right away, but since I knew I had to pay my own way through college and law school, it took me a while to get there.”
While she was still in high school, Hastings set her sights on UMaine. She participated in the UMaine College of Engineering’s High School Juniors Program, and afterwards, Stanley Marshall of the UMaine Pulp and Paper Foundation encouraged the high school senior to apply for a lab technician position to gain further experience. Hastings was accepted, and the following summer she worked for S.D. Warren near her hometown of Portland, Maine.
“This confirmed my interest in chemical engineering as a possible entry into the paper making field,” Hastings explains. “I received a four-year merit-based tuition scholarship from the Pulp and Paper Foundation, and never looked back.”
This was Hastings entry into chemical engineering at the University of Maine, where she immediately involved herself in various areas. She was a co-op student project engineer for Westvaco (now New Page Corp.) in western Maryland her junior year at UMaine, and as a senior, she was also a laboratory instructor for the chemistry department. The hands-on, real-world work pushed Hastings to excel.
“It was a great hands-on practical opportunity,” she says. “I still maintain friendships with people I met there.”
Headed to Washington
After graduation, Hastings accepted a job in the paper making field from Procter & Gamble in Mehoopany, PA. At that point, however, Hastings says she already knew ultimately what she wanted to do was pursue her career in patent law.
“So I applied at the USPTO, where I knew I would have the opportunity to work as a patent examiner and go to law school in the evenings,” Hastings explains. “I began my career at USPTO in 1983 evaluating patent applications in the paper making industry. The transition from quickly creating solutions to real-world problems to learning about the best cutting-edge innovations in the field was dramatic and interesting.”
Hastings adds, “USPTO and I were a great match, so to speak. The Washington, D.C., area had numerous nighttime programs available. USPTO even paid for some of my job-related legal coursework.”
Today, Hastings’ childhood fascination with the patent office has turned into an actual career. She works as an administrative patent judge – she and her colleagues decide appeals from adverse decisions of patent examiners.
“It is most fulfilling to be involved in the innovation process and to be able to make what I believe is the best decision in each case, and be a part of USPTO history,” Hastings says.
Making her mark
Hastings views that USPTO history as vitally important. The Patent Office is one of the longest standing and most impactful institutions of today’s society.
“While the first Patent Act was enacted in 1790, legislation that formalized the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (now called the Patent Trial and Appeal Board) was implemented under President Lincoln in 1861,” Hastings shares. “Even prior to Abraham Lincoln becoming president, he would famously say that the patent laws ‘added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery and production of new and useful things.’”
Hastings credits the solid foundation in engineering gained at UMaine with preparing her for a thriving career.
“UMaine delivered a top-rate education in engineering. I also had a concentration in mechanical engineering,” she says. “The analytical approach required in math and science courses, and particularly in the engineering disciplines, laid a foundation that proved useful for so many aspects of my career and my life.”
Today, the engineer turned patent lawyer has made her dreams a reality, through a lot of patience and hard work. Her advice to others looking to do the same with their dreams?
“Set a goal and plan how to reach it. Don’t be afraid to change it along the way. Have fun and be willing to try new job experiences as much as possible. I feel like I have experienced at least six different careers at USPTO and I enjoyed every one of them.”
Lynda Knapp Fredette ’85: A civil engineer focuses on environmental safety across the globe
Lynda Knapp Fredette ’85 Tackles Environmental HealthX
Today, Lynda Fredette is the manager of Global Environment Health & Safety Compliance Assurance for the United Technologies Corp. affiliate in Connecticut. The company she works for is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, industrial gas turbines and space propulsion systems. Simply put, Fredette’s work is on the cutting-edge of new global technologies.
Lynda Fredette grew up in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. Her father and older sister both graduated from UMaine, and encouraged her to try her hand at engineering. Fredette was enrolled in the UMaine High School Juniors Program to gain some experience before college.
Her time in the program proved fruitful
Fredette initially became interested in architecture and structural engineering, though as she tells it, she would later discover she enjoyed environmental engineering even more.
As a senior, Fredette compared her options and UMaine’s Civil Engineering Department won out – she relocated from Massachusetts to Maine. It was at the University of Maine that Fredette’s passion for environmental engineering was instilled. Fredette became quickly involved with on-campus research, working on various environmental engineering-related projects for Jerry Lowry, including radon-related studies. She fondly recalls some of her favorite professors from her undergraduate who helped to shape her career: Willem Brutsaert, her adviser; Chet Rock, her first environmental course professor; Tom Sandford; and John Alexander.
Technology for a new world
After graduating with highest distinctions from UMaine in December 1984, Fredette took a civil engineering teaching assistant position at the University of New Hampshire. The next year, worked as a research chemist with the U.S. Army. Before long, Fredette was landing more and more jobs in her field and proceeded to work in several different environmental engineer positions before eventually taking a job in Environmental Health and Safety. With EHS, she began focusing her work on environmentally and ergonomically friendly product design.
Fredette credits the environmental engineering and chemistry courses she took at UMaine with preparing her to “understand U.S. environmental regulatory requirements, pollution sources and treatment system design principles.” Some of her humanities courses like Chinese history came in handy, as well, especially when she had the opportunity to travel to Asia.
Fredette also went back to school – she earned her master’s degree in management in 2000 before landing her current role. Today, she manages EHS regulatory compliance programs, audit programs, acquisition integration for new facilities, training, and performance metrics reporting company-wide. Fredette deals on a daily basis with issues such as increasing EHS regulatory requirements for factories and products, helping new acquisitions adopt effective EHS management systems that protect people and the environment and ensure 100% regulatory compliance, and developing talent to handle broad EHS job requirements.
Fredette says that today, there is more environmental safety work to do all across the globe than ever. Her field is expanding rapidly to meet the growing need for sustainable solutions. Now, the environmental regulatory requirements are broader and more stringent both in the U.S. and abroad, and in addition, she says, “there’s much greater emphasis on design for sustainability (especially reduced environmental “footprints” with emphasis on carbon) with improved consideration of product lifecycle impacts.”
Fredette says that, with all she has on her plate, the university is still very much a part of her life.
“I continue to donate annually to the university and try to do some volunteering,” she says. “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.”
Her best advice for aspiring engineers is to “take advantage of intern, co-op and mentoring opportunities.”
Fredette adds, “Real-world work experience and connections help students choose majors and courses wisely, and find great jobs they’ll enjoy in a tough market.”
And if she wasn’t an engineer, what would she be doing?
“Retired?” Fredette jokes. “Seriously, I’m not sure,” she adds. “I’ve always been glad I chose engineering.”
Katy Grime ’12: Grime takes on the challenge of competitive college track along with a difficult academic course load
May 2012, graduation weekend, was complicated for Katy Grime. She received her degree on Saturday, then competed on Sunday in the America East 2012 Outdoor Track and Field Championship on campus. Grime ranks second on the all-time record list for her 133’3” discus throw in 2011. Yet, such a scenario was not all that uncommon for the UMaine alum who balanced both a successful academic career in a challenging major alongside a successful athletic career.
Of the seven engineering schools to which Katy Grime was accepted, the University of Maine held the strongest attraction. The spacious campus and proximity to surrounding small towns felt reassuringly familiar to the native of Brownington, VT.
In addition, she had been in touch with the UMaine women’s track coach and been assured that her interest in athletics — her discus performance came close to breaking the record at North Country Union High School — would be supported.
At UMaine, Grime was drawn to transportation and structural disciplines in civil engineering, in keeping with her longstanding interest in bridge design. Although the program is demanding and time consuming, she took advantage of every opportunity to broaden her academic experience and her network of professional contacts.
As a freshman, Grime joined the UMaine chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). She also participated in two summer internships in Maine — one with Olver Associates in Winterport, which specializes in environmental engineering, another with CES in Brewer, which specializes in site design. She attended multiple job fairs and industry conferences.
In addition, Grime participated for a year in the UMaine chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, worked as a lab assistant on a groundwater research project, and assisted in the construction phase of the Cloke Plaza on campus. For her senior capstone project, Grime was a member of a team that created a redesign of University Park, UMaine’s off-campus residential community for families. The redesign includes new apartment groupings, as well as critical infrastructure, such as roads and utilities.
The group won the Best Project Presentation award at the annual Senior Gala, sponsored by the Maine section of the ASCE. After graduation in May 2012, Grime jumped in to her field. She landed a position working in the Bedford, N.H., office of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., which provides integrated planning, transportation, land development and environmental consulting services for airports, schools, government agencies, healthcare and other sectors.
Joan Malcolm-Albee, Biomedical Engineer
Q: How did you know about The Jackson Laboratory as a possible place to work?
A: I worked on a whale-watching boat in Bar Harbor the summer after my freshman year at the University of Maine. Every day we’d pass Highseas [The Jackson Laboratory’s seaside mansion], and the guide would talk a little about the Lab. When I went back to school I asked questions and kept my eyes open. I was fortunate to get an internship, then do my senior project here.
Q: What’s your most interesting project right now?
A: I have a lot on my plate now, but soon I’ll be spending a lot of time developing a method for improving in vitro fertilization. The tools of IVF have changed little since IVF was first developed about 40 years ago, and what we want to do is take a labor- and equipment-intensive process and create a “set it and forget it” system. I can see our work having a significant impact throughout the research community. It will make IVF not only easier and more efficient but more effective as well.
Q: You’re in a specialized field. What were your career goals heading into college?
A: I grew up in Gardiner, Maine, and our family doctor inspired me to go into medicine—family practice. But when I went to the University of Maine I wanted to incorporate math with the biology, and that’s how I came to biomedical engineering.
Q: Do you like living in the area?
A: I dreamed of living here after my first summer. I feel extremely fortunate to have gotten such a terrific, challenging job in my field in Bar Harbor. Outside of work I love outdoor activities, and you can’t beat having Acadia National Park right outside your door.
Q: So you plan to stay for a while?
A: My work here has given me the confidence to pursue a Ph.D. in a biomedical engineering program, so I expect I’ll have to leave at some point. But my husband has a local family business and ultimately we want to return here.
Stephanie Yum, Chemical Engineer
Why chemical engineering?
I decided to be a chemical engineer after I took basic high school chemistry. I felt comfortable doing chemistry; it was like a calling. From then on, I knew I wanted a career in which I applied chemistry. I thanked my high school chemistry teacher, Helen Steele, for teaching in a way that
really showed me how important chemistry is to everyday life and making it incredibly interesting.
Tell me about your involvement in UMaine’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
I joined SWE immediately when I came to college. I am very passionate about being a woman in engineering and science. When I decided to be a chemical engineer, I knew I was going to spend my life in science. To me, it’s absurd to think that women are put off by science for any reason,
and I want them to see it in a different manner. That’s why I and other SWE members are involved in outreach to girls through the Engineering Expo and Girl Scout Badge Day. Events like these are important because they get girls thinking about science and engineering. I want them to put down the dolls and Easy-Bake Ovens and play with circuits and chemistry sets so they can see that they’re really fun and interesting.
What’s your advice to girls thinking about engineering?
Engineering is a great career choice. There’s so much need for engineers. We’re like the modern inventor — we develop the things people need to use every day. If you’re a problem solver, engineering is the best field to pursue.
What was it like interning at Sappi Fine Paper’s Westbrook, Maine, mill in summer ‘09 and spring‘10?
As an intern, I applied my theoretical academic background and got practical knowledge. I’m a much better engineer as a result of my six months there. I learned so much. I shadowed a technical engineer and worked on projects with many of the engineers in the company. They made me feel I was an engineer, thinking on my own. I also was encouraged to find my own projects and follow through with my ideas.
You’ve had other internship offers?
I was offered a process engineering internship with Frito-Lay in Connecticut and I interviewed with Kimberly-Clark in California. But I couldn’t take any more internships because I need to finish my coursework to graduate on time.
Where are you headed after May graduation?
I’m considering either graduate school or the working world. Working in manufacturing is interesting and dynamic. Every problem and day is different, and you have to be on your toes. I want a career in process engineering that is very fast-paced and involves problem solving.