FPE Undergraduate Student Profile: Breanne Thompson

Breanne
Breanne Thompson.

Summer Internship: On the job at Fisher Engineering, Inc.

Sophomore Breanne Thompson didn’t wait to discover what a career in fire protection engineering could be like. Not long after completing her first semester at the University of Maryland, she approached Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) professor and chair Jim Milke about finding an internship in the field. He helped her connect with alumnus Doug Fisher (B.S. ’91), principal of Fisher Engineering, Inc. Thompson spent her summer as an intern at the Georgia consulting firm, where she worked on several projects that gave her hands-on experience with fire safety systems and codes.

“I knew that the chances of getting an internship at a fire protection engineering company [when I had] no FPE knowledge was going to be very slim,” she says, “[but] it was worth the shot...even if I got declined, I would have been able to learn from the interview experience and get my name out there. I know that there are many different disciplines [within] fire protection engineering, and I want to be able to touch on the majority of them before I leave UMD so that I have a good idea of what I would like to do coming out of school.”

Thompson’s passion and tenacity can be traced back to a twist of fate: At a Maryland Marquee Day, she got lost on her way to a chemical and biomolecular engineering information session, and ran into Assistant Director Nicole Hollywood, who was on her way to FPE’s.

“She told me about fire protection, so I went to that info session instead,” Thompson recalls. “I absolutely loved it, and wanted to know more. So I declared myself a fire protection engineering major, took ENFP 101, and loved the content of that class. I decided that this is what I want to do.”

"I feel so ahead of the game now, and I am doing very well in my life safety class because of this [internship] experience...I truly learned that I can do anything I put my mind to."

Fire Protection Engineering undergraduate student Breanne Thompson

Fisher Engineering let her dive right in. She reviewed shop drawings to determine if buildings conformed to NFPA 101 Life Safety Code requirements by calculating whether occupants could exit quickly and safely in the event of a fire. She also performed hydraulic calculations to assess water flow in a hotel’s sprinkler system, both manually and computationally, using HASS software and code requirements laid out in NFPA 13, the Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.

Off-site work included accompanying Fisher on a visit to an Atlanta school to test its fire systems, and measuring fire hydrant pressure in Cobb County, Ga. to verify functionality and determine how much water would be available in an emergency.

One of the most pleasant surprises of the job, she adds, was the diversity of the Fisher Engineering staff members she worked with.

Thompson’s internship has already had significant personal and academic benefits. It’s even inspired her to consider consulting as a career path.

“I feel so ahead of the game now, and I am doing very well in my life safety class because of this experience,” she says. “I have a very good understanding of how hydraulic calculations play a role in real life situations.”

She also learned she should never doubt her own potential. “Mr. Fisher gave me many projects to complete, even though I had never been introduced to any of the topics [they] covered. I knew that I had to get [them] done, so I spent a lot of time reading NFPA 13 and NFPA 10. After gaining that knowledge, I was able to apply it to the projects. I truly learned that I can do anything I put my mind to.”