Bechtel Fellows

Joe Litehiser, Seismology


Joe is a Bechtel veteran of more than three decades. His innovative use of probabilistic seismic hazard analysis has earned him a worldwide reputation for applying theoretical engineering concepts to reduce the risk that structures will sustain damage from earthquakes.

Get to Know Joe

What is the most exciting or challenging project you were involved in, and what was your role?

There have been many, but all have involved hands-on field work. Several of the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) projects were my favorites. The FUSRAP was a project to manage and clean up environmental contamination that resulted from early U.S. Atomic Energy Commission activities related to the Manhattan Project of World War II. It was exciting from a historical perspective as well as from being part of an effort to restore sites contaminated under a different set of exigencies to more benign times. My role was principally collection, analysis, and reporting of geophysical data.

What is the best career advice that you’ve received?

Every day make that one more call, send that one more email, follow that one more lead. Never believe that you know so much that you don’t need to know more.

What do you see as the key skills that new engineers need to have in the global job market?

To plagiarize from a client’s procedure, “Engineering is the knowledge of mathematics and natural sciences combined with judgment applied to the solution of problems; therefore, the use of engineering judgment is an integral part of engineering processes.” Thus the key skills for new or experienced engineers seem to be proficiency in mathematics and natural sciences with a focus on their particular area of expertise, but whatever that expertise may be, they should be able to come up with an adequate answer on the basis of ultimately inadequate information.

What leadership skills do you think are needed to be a great engineer?

To listen, integrate information, act in the short term when it is required, and to persist in the promotion of solutions that have long-term benefits even if not the best in the short term.