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James Bremner, BEng Scty '96

Chemical Engineering & Society | Big Picture Problem Solving

In a world increasingly in search of big picture answers, James Bremner is well suited to be a modern problem solver.

As a McMaster student, he was drawn to the Engineering & Society program’s focus on considering engineering challenges within their larger social context.

“I knew I wanted to broaden my education beyond the technical,” says Bremner, who earned his degree in 1996. “Engineering & Society was a new program at the time and it was an exciting opportunity.”

After spending the first 15 years of his career working as a principal process engineer on large multi-year mega projects in the Alberta oilsands, Bremner has responded to the downturn in the sector by pivoting into the role of a Calgary-based engineering consultant.

“While I enjoyed working for large international companies on big projects, being my own boss and seeking out interesting smaller projects to work on is really satisfying,” he says. “Lately I have worked in energy efficiency analysis using artificial intelligence tools, commercializing new clean fuel technologies, and even redesigning a commercial coffee roaster.”

And his big picture perspective – the ability to consider problems within both the technical and larger social context – is helping him succeed in today’s world of engineering consulting.

“I think I bring value to my projects by having a broader set of approaches to the particular challenge,” says Bremner.

Work assignments across Canada, the US, and Europe have given him opportunities to work with people from a variety of backgrounds, as well as the chance to mentor new engineers and follow their careers.

His advice to today’s students: “Chase any opportunity. Engineers have a deep toolbox of skills that can be applied to a wide variety of problems, you just need to go find them and show people how you can help them.”