Kevin Chapman: Advancing Education, Advancing Career

wastewater treatment systems engineer

The Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) Online program serves a variety of students. With a desire to learn more real-world knowledge in his field, Kevin Chapman now pursues an advanced degree while working a full-time job, specializing in wastewater treatment systems. Here’s his story:

Academic Career

NC State: Tell us about your academic background.

Kevin Chapman: I started at NC State in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department in 2012 and earned a B.S. in Biological Engineering: Environmental Engineering in 2016. I selected this field because I participated in a NC State Engineering Summer Camp in high school. I started the MBAE Online program in fall 2016 and anticipate graduating this fall.

NC State: What motivated you to enroll in NC State’s MBAE Online Program?

KC: At the onset of my senior year, I thought I would be done with school upon graduation. But then something interesting happened. I noticed a good portion of my undergraduate courses served as building blocks for my senior year in college. These senior-level courses had real-world application and captivated my interest. I quickly realized I was not done yet; I wanted to take more classes in my field.

I also had dedicated, engaging professors who were receptive to students both inside and outside of the classroom and knew I would be learning from the same people. Lastly, I realized pursuing an advanced degree not only helps me better contribute to an environmentally-oriented field, but also offers me a long-term professional edge, which is important in today’s professional climate.

Professional Career

NC State: Describe your Agri-Waste Technology position. What are your main responsibilities?

KC: Based on a professor’s recommendation, I started working part-time, first as an intern, at Agri-Waste Technology (AWT) in May 2015. Following graduation, AWT hired me as a full-time assistant project engineer. Currently, I design and permit wastewater treatment systems, or septic systems, with the majority of my work focused on properties with single-family residences. Our clients often are building, buying or own a house that requires a septic system or contains a failing system; we consult with the client on either repair or replacement.

As an intern, I worked on the design drawings. Now, I am responsible for managing individual projects from start to finish, overseeing client management, permitting, design and installation. I ensure we have designed what we permitted and installed a functioning wastewater treatment system. Most projects are within a 50-mile radius of our Apex office in Durham, Orange, Wake and Chatham Counties, essentially where people cannot connect to the city’s sewer system. About twenty percent of my time is outside, doing field work or helping with soil evaluations, and eighty percent of my time is in the office, creating designs.

NC State: How does your and the company’s work impact the community?

My firm offers the most assistance to home or property owners who have a failed wastewater treatment systems, whether they lack the proper space, their soil cannot handle the repair and their system fails current standards. Owners need assistance designing a wastewater treatment systems, so they can continue to live in their homes. AWT takes pride in using reputable products to ensure the wastewater treatment system is safe for not only the homeowner and family, but also for the surrounding environment.

NC State Experience

How will your participation in the MBAE program will impact your career? Has it already?

Most of my MBAE courses are related to stormwater versus wastewater, yet many of the same hydrologic principles apply to my work at AWT. Learning about hydrology and soils in my MBAE courses has helped me to better communicate with and directly assist our firm’s soil scientists since the process of designing a septic system involves analyzing the soil to ensure we can install a system.

Earning an advanced degree enables me to be better valued in my current position and more competitive for potential future positions as I grow and advance in my career.

Tell us about your experience with the online program. Is the online course delivery impactful?

I have taken two online courses per semester while working full-time, which has worked effectively. Most of my online courses offer video recordings of lectures, which has been helpful. I appreciate being able to slow down the lecture and re-hear certain concepts and ideas. My online courses also have forums on the course website, which encourages students to post questions directly to the professor. It’s common that many other students have that same question. I’ve also met other working professionals while participating in group projects or peer-reviewed assignments, which helps since we understand each other’s situations. My professors have been accessible and are committed to delivering engaging material.   

Check back each month as we explore a variety of topics about the BAE Online Program at NC State.