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100th Anniversary Edition

Alumni News | Vol. 31, No. 1 | Fall 2022

World-Class Research and Production Right Here in N.B.

ALUMNI NEWS MAGAZINE | 100th Anniversary Edition

Pat Whalen (BScChE'03) would probably say that spending time in the research lab was one of the keys to success for LuminUltra, the molecular diagnostic testing company he leads in Fredericton that now operates in  
six countries.  

The lab has been a place he's felt comfortable in since he was just 15 years old. The company was founded by his father, Phil Whalen (BScChE'70, MScChE'72), and in the early days, he recruited his teenage son, Pat, as a lab technician. Pat says that his father had a fervent belief that research could make a difference.  

"Dad was a big believer in continuous improvement and always wanted to continue researching to do better and better in all facets of his life, from his profession as a consulting engineer to his passion for the game of golf.”

Today, Pat carries on that tradition with the company, albeit not directly from the lab himself any longer. As chairman and CEO, he's constantly working to create market opportunities, find efficiencies and roll out new and better solutions for testing microbiological activity in water and wastewater.  

"Sometimes we can get a bit carried away with doing things better and faster, but I can't imagine how we would have gotten to where we are without that core philosophy of continuous improvement that was infused into the company from day one.” 

Day one was back in the mid-90s when Phil Whalen and business partner Jim Cairns were just starting to explore new concepts in biological wastewater treatment optimization. Having worked for many years at NB Power after graduating from UNB, Phil used his knowledge of the power and environmental sectors to begin consulting with coal mines, oil companies and power plants across North America to help them clean up their wastewater. He and Jim came up with the idea to apply a new testing technology that was just beginning to be used in industrial water applications that could identify many microorganisms in a sample of water in real time, facilitating decision making in minutes instead of days. 

"Dad realized he needed some more hands in the lab, so he tasked my brother, Tony (BScChE'94), to train me on the ins and outs of being a laboratory technician. That pretty much set me on the path towards chemical engineering, and I continued to work in the lab throughout my studies at UNB. It was at UNB where I learned how to learn. I was taught to think critically, how to critique and how to take critique. My time at UNB really taught me how to get beyond roadblocks and find solutions.” 

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