Originally from Nigeria, Chuma Nnaji came to the School of Civil and Construction Engineering last year to begin graduate studies with a focus on research in construction engineering management. After starting the program as a master’s student, he will transition to a doctoral degree-seeking student this year. Recently, he sat down with the school to discuss his first year at Oregon State University, current research projects, and future goals.  

Why Oregon State?

I was working home in Nigeria in the construction industry and wanted to get an advanced degree. The United States has the best graduate schools for civil engineering and found several possible schools through basic research. I wanted to focus my research on construction safety and the name that kept surfacing was Dr. John Gambatese at Oregon State University. 

I started corresponding with him and others in the department; and, as a group, they were very responsive and positive about what was happening at OSU. I also talked with a former student; and, putting it all together, it seemed like the right fit for me. I loved how responsive they were to my questions, which showed a level of professionalism and structure and allowed me to have faith in attending a school that is almost 8,000-miles away from my home.

How did you choose the field of construction engineering management?

It was a combination of interest and family support. Our family owns a very small construction business in Nigeria so I always liked construction. The way I think and process information naturally drew me to construction engineering management. I envision myself as a construction project engineer so choosing the path was an easy choice. 

What research projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a safety research project with the Oregon Department of Transportation in creating safer construction work zones, specifically how to effectively reduce the speed of motorists through road and highway construction zones. As far as personal research, I’m looking to see if we can build a model for predicting and evaluating construction project performance. The idea is to walk into a construction site during the first week and break down what some of the problems might be as the project progresses. 

What are some of your future career goals?

Personally, I always had the desire to work in the oil industry and offshore construction. I’m looking at ways to collaborate with faculty in the State of Texas to do some research here that can benefit the oil construction industry. Down the line, I’d like to form a small consulting agency and give back to my community in Nigeria.

What do you like about the Corvallis and the Oregon State community?

Apart from the free food (laughing)? I love the people here. The people are warm, inviting, and always smiling. The community here is strong and supportive. I love the Pacific Northwest. The air is clean and there is always so much to do. 

Any advice for incoming graduate students?

Engage with your faculty as they play a huge part in the graduate experience. Also, connect with somebody who has been a part of the program as they can be a great resource. Finally, have fun!

– February 2015