Background Info –non-academic, industry experience, hobbies
My name is Chris Corwin and I started as a full-time Instructor here in the Spring of 2014. I earned my B.S. from the University of Kentucky and both my M.S. and Ph.D. from CU, so I am a Buff. I became a Professional Engineer (P.E.) in Colorado back in 2002. I have over 15 years of consulting engineering experience in a wide range of environmental and civil disciplines. Before returning to CU for my advanced degrees, I worked as a consulting engineer working in the areas of structural engineering, water resources engineering, environmental engineering, and civil/site development. I have designed the structural steel frames for high schools and hospitals. The first design I stamped as a P.E. was for the civil site improvements around the Pepsi Center in Downtown Denver to host the CART Grand Prix of Denver. I have also been an expert witness for water rights adjudication in northwest Colorado. After earning my advanced degrees, I returned to consulting with a specialization in drinking water treatment. I have served as a volunteer for the American Water Works Association (AWWA) in their working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on rulemaking and I have worked with the State of Louisiana in their responding to the discovery of Naegleria fowleri in finished drinking waters in the state.
What are you passionate about?
As Environmental Engineers, we have all chosen a great career path. You will be highly employable, well paid, and have a lot of opportunities to work in the geography of your choice throughout your entire career. However, it is not enough to just be a good environmental engineer. We must all also be dedicated to improving this profession we have chosen. Many people don’t really understand what environmental engineers do and think our profession is not a necessity. What environmental engineers do is protect public health. I am passionate about not just making great engineers, but great professionals that will be the future leaders.
What classes do you teach?
I currently teach Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering, Water and Wastewater Treatment, Environmental Engineering Processes, and I co-teach Environmental Engineering Design, our capstone senior design experience, with Professor Walker.
What is your favorite thing about being an environmental engineering professor at CU?
Working with such talented and motivated students. Being here in Colorado is also great. It is a very environmentally conscience state which makes it a great place to study environmental engineering, but Colorado is also a great place to live. The great weather year-round and access to the mountains provides the recreational and fitness opportunities for my time off.
What sets CU’s environmental engineering program apart from others?
One is our curriculum, the other is the program’s dedication to undergraduate teaching. Looking around at other environmental engineering programs, I see many of them look to be a standard civil engineering curriculum with a few courses replaced with other environmental offerings. Our curriculum was formed from the needs of the environmental engineer, then we built courses around that. I have heard from multiple students that go on to pursue M.S. degrees at other universities that they have a difficulty finding courses to take because they took them all as an undergraduate at CU.
CU has also made a commitment to making the environmental engineering program a great experience for the students. Most universities are either teaching universities or research universities. At CU, you get the best of both worlds. You will take classes from professional instructional faculty, who are charged with excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level, and from world-class professors who bring their cutting edge research into the classroom.
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom to give to prospective or current students?
Get internships. Engineering internships usually pay pretty well, but the real reason everyone should have internships by the time they graduate is because they are going to set you up in your job search. Many students go on to get their first full-time job with a company they started with as an intern. Even if that doesn’t happen, it looks great on your resume and will give you experience in knowing what you are looking for in your first full-time position/employer. Also, students who do internships over the summer come back to school with a new perspective and motivation for their education. College is a wonderful time in your life, and you should absolutely take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to travel abroad, do research, etc. You have three opportunities to use your summers, use them wisely.
You spent many years working in the industry, what made you come back to teach?
With many years as a professional before returning to grad school I had learned that, for me, the most important factors in job satisfaction were continuous learning and believing that my role was having an impact on society. During my time as a graduate student here at CU working with Professor Summers, I was given the opportunity to teach and mentor younger students. I was immediately taken by the fact that teaching is learning, and there is no more direct way of having an impact on the future of engineering than through teaching the next generation.
What is your favorite topic to teach? Why?
I am very lucky in that I love all the courses I teach. The capstone senior design is very rewarding to see the students really pull everything they have learned together to solve an authentic engineering problem working with an outside client. The students also noticeably progress in their writing and oral communication skills throughout the semester. Water and Wastewater Treatment is the area I identify as my specialty. It is very fun to teach being able to bring my professional experience into the classroom. Environmental Engineering Processes is very challenging material for most students, but the application of how it could be used in a professional environment is very obvious. This combination makes it a very rewarding course to teach. At first, I was not looking forward to teaching Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering because it is a large class of students with many different goals for the course. It has turned out that I now really enjoy teaching this course because it is the introductory course for the students and I get to see the excitement for environmental engineering build in the students.
Many students are uncertain about the path to take after graduation and whether to pursue a higher degree or get a feel of the industry first. What is your advice for senior students about their future plans?
An M.S. degree is the best degree in environmental engineering. Though it is generally not going to increase your starting salary greatly, it will give you the most professional mobility and be a short cut to meeting your career goals, particularly if you would like to focus on a technical career (many engineers end up on the management or sales path, just another reason an engineering degree is so great). If you think you might want to do a M.S., I say go for it, you only stand to regret not doing it. Don’t worry too much about not knowing exactly what you want to do either, the M.S. degree is not so specialized that it will prevent you from working in other areas of environmental engineering. The B.S./M.S. program at CU provides a great way to go straight through for both degrees.
Christopher Corwin Contact Information
August 19th, 2015