‘Hyper-specialized’ expertise may be the way to go for the next generation of geosynthetics engineers, suggests Hamza Mridakh.
Here, the chair of the IGS Young Members Committee for the Africa and Middle East Region shares his thoughts on opportunities and challenges for members and the region.
Hi Hamza! Please tell us a bit about your path to the IGS and current role.
My role began as the link between sister societies as I’m the Moroccan liaison to the ISSMGE (International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering) and a Member of the Moroccan Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. From there I joined the IGS Young Members Committee (YMC) to help develop new activities and promote existing tasks. In late 2022 I was elected as YMC chair for the Africa and Middle East Region.
What’s going on for IGS Young Members in the Africa region at the moment? What are the YMC’s priorities and plans here?
This year was very busy for the YMC and the IGS in Africa. We started the year in Cairo, Egypt, for GeoAfrica 2023, which included a social event where we had the opportunity to meet young members from around the world, a Young Members’ Paper competition, and Geosynthetics Design Challenge quiz. You can read more about it here.
Caption: Hamza Mridakh at GeoAfrica2023 in Cairo, Egypt conducting the Young Member quiz and accepting his award for winner of the Young Members’ paper contest in Morocco.
We also started the IGS Job Shadowing Program in Morocco for the first time, where three students from the Mines School of Rabat (ENSMR) benefited from this opportunity.
As the Africa and Middle East Region has a small number of chapters, we have limited access to Young Members active at chapter level (except for South Africa). Among our goals is to get more Young Members from the region active with the YMC to create a dynamic society, then create even more interesting objectives in the future.
What do you think will be the challenges and opportunities for the industry over the next few years, and for young engineers in the Africa region specifically?
Having a clear understanding about how to choose the right product with the right set of properties an engineer needs for a specific project is a key issue in the industry and this is as valid for young engineers as it is for senior engineers in the region. This can also be seen as a big opportunity for the younger generation, as it is a promising field where hyper-specialized consulting firms and specialists will be increasingly needed as the regional economy develops.
How has the IGS evolved since you joined?
Firstly the YMC has been given the necessary tools to help spread knowledge about geosynthetics, which has been well reflected by a highly productive YMC in every local, regional and international event. Also, the development of the Job Shadowing Program is going in the right direction. The IGS has evolved in terms of educational content, through technical reports, webinars and the Educate the Educators (EtE) program worldwide.
What do you do outside the IGS? Do you have a geosynthetics specialism or area of interest?
I work as an assistant professor in the mining department of the Mines School of Rabat (ENSMR). I’m responsible for the Stability section, of which I teach the geotechnical engineering and geomechanics courses for 2nd and 3rd year (Final year) engineering students. I’m also responsible for the soil mechanics and rock mechanics laboratories in the Mining department. My area of interest is soft soils behavior and numerical modeling research for high-speed railways and road embankments, as it was the continuity of my PhD work. As I’m passionate about earthwork in general, I’m now involved in other areas of research and consultancy such as mines tailing dams, solid waste landfills, and soil and rock slope stability.
How has the industry changed and how do you see it developing?
The industry is getting better visibility through case studies and much easier access to information. The younger generation now has much more opportunities to be involved, and that can be easier through mentorship.
What do you think are the current key priorities for the geosynthetics industry, and why?
As an educator I’m biased by saying education is key, and not only education, but up-to-date education! As we know the industry is developing fast with new technologies and big investment involved, getting the right education and keeping up with new advances is the way to go.
What do you enjoy the most about being involved in the IGS?
The IGS dynamics, meeting researchers, specialists and young members around the world is an interesting experience to have in life. In addition, learning about our industry through friendly discussions and numerous meetings during the year is fascinating.
What are you most looking forward to in the IGS calendar?
Most definitely GeoAmericas 2024, the 5th Pan-American Conference on Geosynthetics, in Toronto, Canada, in April next year.
Do you have any messages for members?
As the YMC chair for Africa and the Middle East, I would like to say that there is a lot to do for the region, a lot of opportunities lying ahead for the younger generation, so get involved with your local chapters and do as much as you can.
To the mentors in the industry I say give the younger generation the opportunity to help out. As we say, “There’s only so much you can do, but if somebody doesn’t give you a chance there is nothing you can do”.
For more information about the YMC, visit here.