Chris Nail is a professional engineer and professional land surveyor in the state of Mississippi. He has been employed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation for 25 years and currently serves as the District Five Preconstruction Engineer. He has served as the preconstruction engineer for four years, and his past experience with MDOT included 10 years as the Resident Engineer for the Newton Project Office and two years as the assistant local public agency engineer for District Five. As the preconstruction engineer, Nail coordinates project planning and plan development with the MDOT administration and design divisions, the Federal Highway Administration, and other local stakeholders. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Mississippi State University and a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from Kansas State University.
Why was it important for you to become dual licensed?
As a civil engineer, especially one involved in highway construction, I feel that it is important to have knowledge and experience in both transportation engineering and surveying because both fields are heavily involved in highway construction design and construction.
How has having a dual license benefited you in your career?
Roadway and bridge construction projects always involve control surveying, topographic surveying, property surveying, and construction surveying, as well as many facets of civil engineering. Being versed in the language and procedures of each profession enables me to communicate effectively with surveyors, engineers, construction workers, and others. In addition, that knowledge helps me make more educated decisions during the planning, design, and construction processes.
What advice would you give others who are debating whether or not to obtain a dual license?
Dual licensure is not necessary in all of the fields of civil engineering, but all of them depend on surveying at one point or another. Experience in and a working knowledge of both professions is a great benefit for the practitioner and the stakeholders that you deal with. I think it makes you more well-rounded and allows you to be a better communicator.
Tell us about the most memorable moment you had in your career as a licensed surveyor and engineer.
My most memorable moment probably spanned a period of two years. I was the project manager over an 8-mile roadway realignment project. During that project, I was responsible for project coordination between MDOT and the contractor. I managed the inspection crew, surveying crews, and CAD team, and I resolved issues experienced with adjacent landowners. I helped resolve construction issues by utilizing my engineering knowledge of construction processes, materials, and roadway design concepts. I also worked with the survey crews to stake right-of-way, drainage structures, and grade stakes. I learned a lot during that project and helped improve some of the office’s surveying processes due to my interaction with the crews and the contractor.
When and how did you know you wanted to pursue engineering and surveying as a career?
I decided to pursue engineering when I was a senior in high school. I actually planned to major in computer science, but one of my future roommates talked me into civil engineering. I did not know anything about surveying and had no plans to pursue surveying at that point. After my sophomore year of college, I began a summer internship with the county engineer in our community. I worked for him for two summers and at other times when school was on break. My work there consisted of bridge inventory inspection, construction inspection, land surveying, topographic surveying, and construction staking. My experience working for the county engineer was very valuable and inspired the future coursework that I took. It also got me very interested in taking additional surveying courses. When I graduated from college, I began working for the Mississippi department of transportation (DOT) and served as a construction project manager and was also tasked with being the CAD and surveying coordinator. Although my primary job and goal was engineering, my involvement with CAD and surveying inspired me to seek licensure as a surveyor.
Do you participate in any outreach activities related to surveying or engineering? If so, tell us about them.
I do participate in outreach activities. In the past, I have participated in “Business in the Classroom” program at a local high school. It allows professionals to enter the school, speak about my profession, and answer questions from students that are considering engineering or surveying education. I have judged science fair contests at one of the local community colleges. I recently applied to be a virtual role model through the Discover Engineering website.