Dr Damika Wickremesinghe - BEng(Hons) MEngSc PhD CPEng FIEAust MICE - 25 years experience
I graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) from the University of Sri Lanka in 1980. After working for two years as a site engineer on a hotel construction and an airport redevelopment project in Sri Lanka, I proceeded to Bangkok, Thailand where I did my masters degree at the Asian Institute of Technology. During the time I was in Thailand between 1982 and 1984, I also worked on interesting pile foundation projects where the soft clay substrata were as deep as 50m. In 1984 I joined the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada and commenced a research project, investigating the statistical characterisation of soil profiles using insitu test data, which led to the award of a PhD in 1989. I migrated to Australia in 1989 and was employed by Dames & Moore; a large multinational consultancy firm. My experiences at Dames and Moore, and more recently URS who merged with Dames and Moore in 1999, have been very wide and varied. I was involved with investigations and geotechnical analysis for many of Sydney’s infrastucture projects including the Third Runway Project, the Harbour Tunnel, M5 and M2 Motorways, the Cross City Tunnel, the Lane Cove Tunnel and the Pacific Highway Upgrade. I have also travelled to the Philippines, Indonesia, PNG, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and India on a range of projects ranging in duration from two weeks to four weeks. Recent projects have involved investigations, analysis, design, construction monitoring, project management and preparation of specifications for various residential, commercial, rail and road and mining projects.
What excites me about Geotechnical Engineering?
Geotechnical Engineering excites me because it is a science as well as an art. It requires the combination of a fundamental theoretical understanding of ground behaviour together with engineering judgement based on site observations.
What attracted me to Geotechnical Engineering?
I always performed better in Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in my university programs and I thought structural engineering was too analytical and theoretical.
The most interesting project I have worked on
In 1995 I was the Resident Geotechnical Engineer for a US$1 billion site reclamation project in Singapore. I was responsible for all ground improvement works, settlement monitoring and the construction of over three thousand concrete piles. This involved the reclamation of a 20-hectare area by placing sand to a depth of almost 8m over an 8m thick layer of very soft marine clays. The placement had to be very closely monitored using piezometers and strategically placed inclinometers to ensure that the rate of reclamation was consistent with strength gain of the marine muds to prevent failure. A contractor violation of standard procedures resulted in an embankment failure. The failure meant that the residual strength of the failed soft soils was near zero and the reconstructed embankment for the jetty construction had to be supported on very deep piles resulting in a significant cost penalty to the project.