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Anderson Hall
Tufts University
Medford, MA 02155

Tel: 617.627.3654
Fax: 617.627.3994
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Steven Chapra, F.ASCE, F.AEESP
Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Louis Berger Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Ph.D. University of Michigan
B.S., M.E., Manhattan College

Research Interests

Water Quality Modeling, Numerical Methods, Advanced Computer Applications in Environmental Engineering

To learn a little about my background and teaching experience, please read below and visit my other pages:

"I'm an environmental engineer and a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Tufts University outside Boston. I grew up in New York City and was educated at Manhattan College and the University of Michigan. Aside from Tufts, I've worked for the U.S. EPA, NOAA and Texas A&M University and the University of Colorado. I was fortunate enough to spend the 1997 and 1998 school years in London at Imperial College and the University of Reading.

I was originally drawn to environmental engineering because of my love of the outdoors. I am an avid fly fisherman and hiker. My primary research focus is surface water-quality modeling, and my primary professional goal is to apply engineering, mathematics and computing to maintain a high quality environment in a wise and cost-efficient fashion. I feel blessed to have found a profession where I can meld my love of mathematics and science with my passion for the natural environment. In addition, I get to share it with others through my teaching and writing."

Teaching Philosophy

Although I love research, the primary reason that I work at a university is that I love to teach. I find my greatest satisfaction in turning on the proverbial "light bulb" above my students' heads. Their growth is my major objective and reward.

Steve recently gave a
workshop on water-quality
modeling in Quito, Ecuador
where he also got the chance
to do some "environmental
sampling" as shown in the
above photo.

When I first came to teaching, I thought that my raw enthusiasm and knowledge would make me a good teacher. I soon learned, however, that it takes more than these admittedly important factors. Consequently, my teaching philosophy is based on 5 fundamental principles:

  1. Respect for students. Although it is not always easy, I try to treat every student as if they were my sons and daughters. By this, I certainly do not mean that I coddle them (as I tried to never coddle my own son). Rather, I place their development and growth as my paramount objective; and I respect them enough that I want them to leave stronger then when they entered my course. That's what I've always desired for my son, and I desire no less for my students. In some cases, this means that I'll be caring and nurturing. At other times, I'll be tough and demanding. What matters is that the end result is a more empowered individual. My expectations are always high, because I ascribe to the dictum: "Aim high, miss high; aim low, miss low."
  2. Organization and Professionalism. Although it's sometimes a tough balancing act between research, service and all the other demands on faculty, I strive to have my "teaching act" together each and every time I meet a class. This means everything from getting graded work back in a timely fashion to having a well-designed lecture planned for every class to devising tests, assignments and projects that have sound pedagogical value. It also means that I'm a stickler for ethical behavior. I want to exhibit a professionalism in the way I approach teaching that, aside from the obvious logistical benefits, provides a model of professional behavior for my students; something they'll need to be successful in the "real world."
  3. Knowledge and Enthusiasm for the Subject. Life's too short to spend on things we hate. I love and care about what I do, and I want students to observe and hopefully share that passion. I try to bring that enthusiasm into the classroom. Further, I continually update my presentations from year to year, by bringing in new ideas from the literature and my own research, as well as new problems and examples. In particular, I try to bring my own professional experiences into the classroom.
  4. Fairness in Evaluation. I'm not crazy about grades, as they can distract from the true task of learning and growing. However, I also realize that life does involve a certain amount of evaluation and healthy competition. Therefore, I strive to ensure that my students are fairly evaluated. First and foremost, I admit my mistakes and give students a forum for appeal. I also try to give them lots of opportunities to prove their mastery of the subject. When I was in school, I disliked courses that posited the whole grade on a single exam. I discerned that this was invariably a case of a lazy instructor, rather than the typical raison d'etre that it provided a comprehensive test. On the other hand, I also demand that student work be performed professionally (good presentation, well-written, punctual, etc.), and penalize students who do not meet my clearly specified standards. I do this both to make my grader's life easier (and thus, get graded work back in a timely fashion), as well as to provide them with one more example of professional behavior.
  5. Rapport and Listening. Connecting with students is imperative. For one thing, learning is an interactive, two-way process. If both sides aren't actively pursuing a common goal of growth and learning, the experience will be suboptimal at best; at the worst, it will be a waste of both party's time. I attempt to get to know them by learning their names during the first few weeks of the semester. I also have them write a short biosketch where I have them write about their backgrounds, achievements, goals and aspirations. I also try as much as possible to interject anecdotes regarding my own development and career growth during my lectures. This personal touch, along with a strong dose of humor, seems to open up most students and help them perceive me in the role I love best--a coach and facilitator; that is, an individual who will help them attain their maximum potential.

Workshops and Short Courses

Steve Chapra and Prof. Luis Camacho of Universidad de los Andes along with workshop participants in Bogota, Columbia on June 22, 2012.

Over the past 25 years, I've conducted over 70 workshops and shortcourses here in the United States and abroad. At first, I limited the presentations to week-long courses at my university. In recent years, it has been more cost-effective for the attendees to have me travel to a site where I would conduct the course for a government agency, a firm or a professional organization. Some of the courses are listed below: 

  • Modeling of Eutrophication in Impoundments, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil, July 29-August 2, 1996.
  • Water-Quality Modeling of Lakes and Reservoirs, Beginners Workshop, NALMS 16th International Symposium, Minneapolis, MN, November 13, 1996.
  • Water-Quality Modeling Workshop for TMDLs, Washington State Department of Ecology, Olympia,WA, June 25-28, 2001.
  • Application of QUAL2K for River Eutrophication TMDLs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, SD, July 10-13, 2007.
  • Introduction to Water Quality Issues and Modelling, SA Water Research Commission and SA Dept. of Water Affairs and Forestry, Pretoria, South Africa, January 21-22, 2008.
  • 2011 QUAL2K Hands-One Water Quality Workshop. Department of Environmental Engineering; Institute of Environment and BioSystem Research; Chungnam National University, Daejeon, Republic of Korea, July 21, 2011.
  • Advanced Water Quality Workshop with Qual2K. Santiago, Chile, Ministerio del Medio Ambiente, March, 21-22, 2012.
  • Lake Water Quality Modeling with Lake2K. University of Brescia, Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture, Land and Environment, Brescia, Italy, May 29-June 1, 2012.
  • Seminario Internacional: Modelación de la calidad del agua superficial. Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Columbia, June 19-22, 2012.
  • Lake Water Quality Modeling Workshop. Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality, Helena, MT, June 3-5, 2013.
  • Curso QUAL2K Para La Modelación de la Calidad del Agua en Ríos y Instituto Nacional de Preinversión y Pi Epsilon, Quito, Ecuador. August 17-21, 2015.

As you can see, the presentations range from general overviews to specific topic areas and models. Lately, my book Surface Water Quality Modeling has been serving as my course notes. The book's coverage is broad enough that it allows me to customize the course to the needs of the attendees. For example, I've emphasized particular waterbodies (e.g., streams), pollutants (e.g., nutrients) or models (e.g., QUAL2K) for specific audiences. At other times, the sponsors have wanted a broad overview or introduction to the field.  Finally, I try to mix lectures with hands-on modeling. This usually means that to be the most effective, the workshop site should have enough personal computers or laptops (usually two people per machine is optimal) so that everybody has hands-on experience to reinforce the lectures. This approach has been expedited recently by the widespread availability of notebook computers. I have a substantial library of my own user-friendly water quality models that are distributed to course participants. If you would like to discuss the possibility of my conducting a workshop in conjunction with your organization, please e-mail me at steven.chapra@tufts.edu. My fee is negotiable, particularly if there's some quality fishing experience and excellent local cuisine associated with my visit. And any courses in Alaska or Hawaii get a special discount. 


I have published several textbooks with McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Waveland Press. As described below, the 7th edition of Numerical Methods for Engineers is the most recent.

Numerical Methods for Engineers, 7th Ed. (ISBN-13: 978-0-07-339792-4). The seventh edition of Numerical Methods for Engineers (McGraw-Hill) presents a comprehensive exposition of numerical methods commonly used in engineering. The coverage includes equation solving, optimization, curve fitting, numerical integration and differentiation and the solution of both ordinary and partial differential equations. Along with material on MATLAB and Excel/VBA, the new edition includes Mathcad applications. In addition, the text has been updated to reflect improvements in MATLAB and Excel since the last edition. Also, new and more challenging problems are included. The expanded breadth of engineering disciplines covered is especially evident in the problems, which now cover such areas as biotechnology and biomedical engineering. For more information contact McGraw-Hill or consult the book's home page.

Applied Numerical Methods with MATLAB for Engineers and Scientists, 3rd Ed. (ISBN-13:978-0-07-340110-2). The third edition of Applied Numerical Methods with MATLAB (McGraw-Hill) is written for scientists and engineers who want to learn numerical methods problem solving with special emphasis on the powerful MATLAB software package. The coverage includes equation solving, optimization, curve fitting, numerical integration and differentiation and the solution of ordinary differential equations. For more information contact McGraw-Hill or consult the book's home page.

Surface-Water Quality Modeling (ISBN-13:978-1-57766-605-9). This volume represents a comprehensive overview of transport-and-fate modeling of pollutants in natural surface waters The book provides an introduction to modeling fundamentals (mass balance, kinetics, transport, etc.) along with in-depth descriptions of how a variety of pollutants (pathogens, oxygen-demanding organics, nutrients, toxics and heat) move and react within a variety of water bodies (streams, lakes, and estuaries). I've tried to write the book in a "student-friendly" lecture format that facilitates self-learning. Each lecture contains numerous worked examples and homework exercises. The text strives to balance traditional analytical models with more recent computer-oriented approaches. Several lectures, as well as an appendix, are devoted to numerical (that is, computer-oriented) modeling methods. Beyond its strong computer orientation, several lectures include coverage of advanced modeling topics such as protozoan (e.g., Giardia) pollution, and sediment processes. For more information contact Waveland Press or consult the book's home page.

Introduction to VBA for Excel, 2nd Ed. (ISBN-13:978-0-13-239667-7). This book provides an introduction to Visual Basic for Applications, which is currently the macro language for Microsoft Windows. The book focuses on the use of VBA with Excel to allow engineers and scientists to develop custom user interfaces for numerically oriented programs. The current edition has been updated to be compatible with Excel 2007. If you would like more information or have suggestions on any of these texts, please contact Pearson or consult the book's home page.

For a complete copy of Dr. Chapra's resumé, please send him an email, and he will be happy to send you an MS-Word or text file.