Black History Month: An eye towards research and innovation - Video transcript (Mamadou Fall)

[Mamadou Fall]: My name is Mamadou Fall. 

I am Professor of Geotechnical Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Ottawa. 

I am also the Director of the Department of Civil Engineering, and I am proud to be part of this university. 

What sparked your interest in civil engineering or “earth engineering” as you like to call it? 

I was born and raised in Dakar which is a peninsula. The city is almost surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout my childhood, I often went, and I spent a lot of time at the coast, at the beach, to observe the land, to observe this beauty of nature, the cliffs, how the soil layers are built. 

Part of the cliffs have been built. There were buildings, civil engineering structures. 

But in other parts there were landslides. I found it so fascinating. 

How this nature behaves. A part of nature, we manage to master. Other parts are something natural and beautiful. And I always told myself: when I grow up, I would like to know a lot more about this nature. 

[Text on screen]: What was your inspiration growing up? 

[Mamadou Fall]: I would like to say that it comes from our family, especially my mother and my grandmother. I always remember, when I was growing up, they used to tell me: “The world moves, you have to keep up. » 

What does it mean? I must contribute to this changing world in a positive way. 

It means working very hard. It means respect for others. It means an open mind. It also means a constant search to improve as an individual, in all aspects. 

And that is something that is always in my head. This phrase that my mother and my grandmother told me over and over. 

[Text on screen]: What does Black History Month mean to you? 

[Mamadou Fall]: This is a very important event for the Black community and for me. First, I'm Black. And I find that this event helps to inform and educate people about the many important contributions that Black people have made for Canada. 

And it also helps to fight against certain prejudices against Black people. And in my opinion, many of these prejudices are due to ignorance. Informing and educating are some of the best ways to fight against ignorance. 

As a research professor, are you involved in any initiatives on campus that aim to empower Black youth? 

Currently, what is close to my heart is helping them in their education. 

If I take [the example] here at the University of Ottawa, I have a fairly large and diverse research group. Some are Black. My relationship with Black students goes beyond a teacher-student relationship. But it is a teacher-mentor, teacher-counsellor, teacher-confidant relationship. 

Because sometimes they experience situations that are unique to them. To have someone who can guide them, help them deal [with certain situations] and support them in their education. 

So, if I can help them in that aspect, for me it is a positive contribution because a lot of them see me as a role model and I must help them succeed.