CEE Spring Distinguished Lecture by Professor Raymond Seed [video]

Professor Raymond B. Seed was the honored speaker at the CEE Spring Distinguished Lecture.

Watch the lecture: "Making the Most of Disaster: From Forensic Investigations and Research to Changes in Policy and Practice."


The disastrous flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 laid bare the effects of more than five decades of neglect with regard both policy and funding for U.S. levees and flood protection systems.  In the immediate aftermath of Katrina’s arrival, the American Society of Civil Engineers “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” rated flood protection as one of the two worst elements of U.S. infrastructure, with a grade of “D-”.   Egregious disasters are a costly way to learn.  But they also represent important opportunities not only for learning, but also for effecting much needed changes in both policies and practice.  Forensic investigation, targeted research, the inception of the new U.S. National Levee Safety Program (currently projected to last multiple decades and to require more than $100 billion), the massive California Central Valley Levee Program (CVLP) which served as a test-bed for the evolving national efforts, and ongoing changes in national policies and engineering design standards and protocols all represent beneficial outfalls from the original disaster.  These will lead to important improvements in public safety throughout all 50 states, and they are expected to be emulated in other countries as well.  It is never pleasant nor easy to investigate major disasters, but once a disaster has occurred, the most important thing that we can do is to optimize the resulting opportunities to ensure that similar disasters are less likely to occur in the future.

Professor Seed's research has had a significant impact on geotechnical practice in a number of areas including: analysis of compaction-induced stresses and deformations; seismic stability analysis of dams and embankments; analysis of soil liquefaction potential and post-liquefaction behavior; analysis of reinforced soil systems and deep braced excavations; mitigation of membrane compliance effects in undrained testing of coarse granular soils; effects of site conditions on seismic site response; finite element analysis of soil-structure interaction; and stability and performance evaluation for hazardous waste fills.

He has received the ASCE Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award (1987, 2006 and 2015), the ASCE Edmund Friedman Young Engineer Award for Professional Achievement (1989), the ASCE Arthur Casagrande Award (1989), and the ASCE Huber Research Prize (1996); the Prakash Award for International Contributions to Seismic Geotechnics (1997), NSF"s Presidential Young Investigator Award (1985); a Special Resolution from the California Geology Board recognizing contributions to State seismic safety (2001), and a formal citation of appreciation for consulting services from the Egyptian Government's High and Aswan Dam Authority.

He was selected as the 2003 Queen Mary Lecturer (ASCE), the 2006 Queen Mary Lecturer (ASCE) and the 2006 George W. Sowers State of Practice Lecturer (ASCE). Professor Seed has also received a number of awards and honors recognizing his contributions as an educator, including the 1989 University of California Distinguished Teaching Award (the University's highest teaching award), and the New Engineering Educator Excellence Award (1988) from the American Society for Engineering Education.