National Engineers Week Spotlight – Chris Karamales

Bio Stats: Christopher Karamales

Position: Mechanical Engineer, Design Branch

Years with SWL: 1 year, 4 months

Hometown: Pineville, La.

Education: B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Louisiana Tech University

Certifications: P.E. Arkansas

Hobbies: Photography, travel, fixing things that I was too cheap to buy working/new

Q:  You have been with the district for more than a year, how has your job evolved?  Was it what you thought it would be?

A:  At first I thought I would be working strictly on doing design for civil works projects.  Soon after starting I picked up heating, ventilation and air conditioning projects as well which just added to the variety.  I didn’t realize how much of the job was related to project management or getting a project built.  It’s been a learning process figuring out all the aspects of the job that aren’t strictly design.  The job is not entirely what I expected it would be but I’ve really enjoyed the variety that comes with those unexpected projects.

Q:  What positions have you held in the district?

A:  This is my first position with the Corps.

Q:  What are your short and long term professional and personal goals?

A:  Professional – I’m in full on learning mode.  There are so many things to learn here.  From best practices when designing mechanical systems to getting a project from start to construction and beyond.  My goal is to become an expert on the mechanical aspects of our hydropower projects.

A:  Personal – A short term goal of mine is to spend more time reading and less time falling down the YouTube rabbit hole.  Longer term I’m just trying to be better than I was yesterday.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about your job?

A:  There is no shortage of variety at this job.  We have a wide range of projects including high head dams, low head dams, hydropower, river navigation, HVAC, military, and more.  I like that I get to work on so many different facilities.

Q:  What projects are you working on now and what are some of the challenges?

A:  I am currently working on replacing the sump system at Bull Shoals.  It is early in the project but there are some challenges that will be fun to work through with the guys there.  One challenge on these projects is that the site is so far away.  If you want to know where a small component is or how much room you have you can’t just walk down and look.  But all it takes is a phone call and the guys at the sites have you an answer.  They really know their project and are a great resource.

Q:  What has been your favorite project you have worked on?

A:  My favorite project I’ve worked on was the raw water piping replacement at Table Rock Lake.  Very soon after I started working here I was put on this project and started learning the ropes.  I really enjoyed working with the guys at the site whether it was during site visits or working through an issue.  It was a good start and set me up well for future projects.

Q:  What ways have you found to balance your home life with the busy schedule you have at work?

A:  I feel like the Corps is a good place to work if life outside of work is important to you.  The schedule is fair and allows me to spend time with friends and family fairly easily.  There is the stress that comes with having several projects going on concurrently but that’s nothing a little fishing can’t fix.

Q:  Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?

A:  I once went on a weekend trip to Israel because I didn’t have enough vacation time to take more than a couple of days off and the round trip tickets were only about $340.  We left on Thursday, spent 8 hours in London seeing the sights, got interrogated by IDF before they let us into Israel, had a great time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, didn’t sleep, and I was back at work Monday morning.

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