Chawla graduates ECU with thesis option in construction management

Vinay Chawla became the first master’s student to graduate with a thesis option in the East Carolina University Department of Construction Management on May 7.

Originally from Pakistan and with an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, Chawla said he learned of ECU’s master’s in construction management program from a cousin who attended ECU.

Chawla arrived at ECU in the fall of 2019. He said being the first to complete his thesis wasn’t easy.

“It was complicated, but I got through it,” he said.

His thesis focused on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to assess cracks in road pavement. Chawla said there are different types of cracks that require different mediation steps.

“UAVs take pictures and then we established a deep-learning model that would classify those images into the types of cracks,” he said. “It saves time and cost and labor rather than doing it manually and having to check out everything.”

Vinay Chawla is interested in the planning and estimation involved in construction projects.

Chawla said the use of UAVs in pavement assessment is just starting to scratch the surface.

“I think it’s still in the early stages,” he said. “The data varies with everything and the type of pavement. It needs to be more comprehensive. It’s just the beginning. Everything is leaning toward that right now. We’ll see what happens.”

Now that he has his master’s degree, Chawla is in the process of finding a job. He said he wants to work in the United States, but the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing his search.

“The part of construction I like is really the planning and estimation, the pre-construction activities,” he said. “I’m hoping to get a job in those fields, but if not I’m willing to do site work in the field. … I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

The pandemic also affected his time studying at ECU.

“I was just a semester in. Just when I found all of my bearings and I started to feel at home here, everything went down,” he said. “My work was mostly online and my courses were mostly online even from the beginning, so it was not as much of a change with the work or studying aspect to it. It was more staying at home and being confined to one place. That was more troubling because part of the reason for coming here was to experience the culture, and I did not get to do that much.”

Despite the challenges of COVID, Chawla leaves with positive thoughts about his experiences at ECU.

“It made me learn new things,” he said. “I grew as a person and that’s that, but the more important lesson was just to try to work hard and everything will fall into place.”