5 Questions with an Expert: Thusha P. Thushanthan

May 29, 2024

We're excited to share our latest 5 Questions with an Expert interview with Thusha P. Thushanthan, P.E., Interim Department Manager of Geotechnical Services.

1. Starting with some background about yourself, can you share how you got started in this field and what inspires you most in your work?  
 Since high school, I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer. I was inspired by infrastructure's critical role in our daily lives and how it shapes communities. I was most interested in large-scale projects that impact many people, such as the construction of buildings,  roadways, bridges, retaining walls, dams, and levees.  

Geotechnical engineering classes during my bachelor's degree introduced me to this field. I was fascinated by learning about Mother Nature's response to engineering developments. The earth plays a complex and vital role through factors like soil-structure interaction, allowable bearing capacity, and settlements, which are very challenging to quantify I wanted to take on this challenge, which inspired me to specialize in Geotechnical Engineering.  

My professional path has been as rewarding as it has been demanding. I've had the privilege of working on impactful and diverse projects. A geotechnical engineer's work is integral to assessing and mitigating risks, involving everything from site investigations and laboratory testing to detailed engineering analysis and design.  

Some of my favorite types of work are foundation designs, stability analysis, and settlement calculations. Whether a small-scale project or multi-million-dollar infrastructure development, success requires continuous learning and innovative problem-solving. I love growing my knowledge and contributing to projects that impact communities. Geotechnical engineering has been a rewarding and fulfilling journey, and I am excited to see the future's challenges. 

2. Please tell us about your role at HVJ. What is vital to success in this role, and which aspect of your work or daily routine do you like best?  
As a senior engineer and interim department manager, I oversee our geotechnical engineering department at HVJ North Texas. This team comprises junior engineers, engineering technicians, geologists, and laboratory technicians. 

My primary objective is to lead our team toward the successful completion of each project. We're fortunate to have a group with strong technical expertise mixed with an eagerness to learn. I believe that the key to our success lies in blending our technical skills with a proactive, solution-oriented attitude. 

I enjoy engaging in technical discussions, mentoring, and ensuring we meet our commitment to clients. My role at HVJ offers plenty of opportunities to engage in the aspects of work I love most. It's a genuine pleasure to be a part of HVJ and of our team.

3. Can you briefly describe one of your recent projects and what you found most exciting or rewarding? What was the most significant achievement of the project?  
Geotechnical engineering often involves tackling design challenges through creative problem-solving, innovative ideas, and leveraging field experience. A prime example of this approach was during our work on the US 75 project in Sherman. The project's PS&E design team faced a significant hurdle when they discovered that the retention of an existing culvert was at risk due to proposed changes in fill height. 

Originally, the maximum allowable fill height for the existing culvert was set at 31 feet. However, the project's plans indicated a new fill height of approximately 33 feet, surpassing the established safety limit. This discrepancy prompted the design team to consult with us at HVJ for a viable solution. 

In response, our team conducted an in-depth review of existing literature and thorough analyses. After evaluating several alternatives, we recommended the use of "Geofoam Fill" as an innovative and efficient solution. We provided detailed guidance and recommendations for the installation process, which were seamlessly integrated into the final PS&E plan set. The successful implementation of this solution not only resolved the initial challenge but also kept the project on track, much to the satisfaction of our client. It was rewarding that our design team innovatively addressed the challenge, resulting in a happy client with a workable solution that kept the project on schedule.

4. Can you talk about a time when you encountered an unexpected problem in a project or had to make a difficult decision that affected the outcome? How did you approach the decision-making process? 
I recently completed the FM 731 Widening project, which required a detailed slope stability analysis to provide stability for abutment slopes that were modified due to design changes. The slopes were modified from 3:1 to 2.5:1, and we needed to evaluate their stability. Initially, we could not obtain the required minimum factor of safety. Because of the late stage of the project, any design changes would be costly and delay the project. We found an alternative solution of thick Gabion mats on the abutment slopes and deep-wide Gabion-basket walls at the toe of the slope to increase the slope stability. With this approach, we were able to achieve the required safety standards. We successfully solved this unexpected challenge through collaboration with other designers and proactive, out-of-the-box problem-solving.  

 5. HVJ places a high priority on ongoing learning, personal growth, and mentorship. How have these values helped you develop leadership skills that you've needed to apply in your everyday work life or on complex projects? 
Continuous education is a critical component of my professional journey, and last year, I had the privilege of participating in the Generative Leadership Training sessions.  The training is designed to sharpen both leadership and team collaboration skills. One of the key insights I gained from the training was the crucial role of effective communication and active listening in fostering a productive and dynamic team. The training emphasized the importance of understanding each team member’s unique strengths and areas for growth, facilitating informed discussions, and active engagement. The training that HVJ has encouraged me to attend has enhanced my ability to analyze complex situations, connect with my team members, manage challenges, and make effective decisions.  



You May Also Like

These Stories on Blog

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think