Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A busy schedule of a Marie Curie PhD

Hi Fellows,

Have you enjoyed the summer? I hope you had fun!!

In this post I would like to talk a bit about the Marie Curie PhD life. Indeed, I am often asked to answer the following questions:

How is the life of a Marie Curie PhD student? Do you really work?

These questions are asked by both master students, who think about applying for a Marie Curie PhD, and common people that work in industry and have no idea about PhD academic life. 

For this reason, I am going to talk about the last three months of my PhD life, in order to explain how the life of a Marie Curie PhD student can be.

Firstly, on a daily base, I have to merge technical and non-technical work, such as the coding process for data analysis and drafting conference and journal papers, respectively. Although, the technical work is the main core of the research, due to the fact that it aims to push further the current state-of-the-art of the research topic, and it requires strong and wide background of statistic, engineering problem-solving, data analysis techniques, physics, coding in different languages, etc., the non-technical work is absolutely crucial. Indeed, the non-technical work allows to: i) investigate possible new directions for the research, by reading the work of other researchers; ii) describe and discuss the results of your own research, by drafting journal and conference papers.

However, the daily work, which has to be carried out accurately by adequately scheduling all the work activities, can be jeopardized by all the side activities that a research programme might have, for example, conferences, training courses and meetings.

With this respect, as I mentioned before, during the last three months, I worked daily on my research by continuing the development of innovative data-drive fault detection methods in order to monitor the health state of civil infrastructure, and by drafting and submitting journal and conference papers (here you can find the list of all my publications), but at the same time I have traveled quite a lot in order to present the results of my research at three international conferences and to attend an awesome training course.

The three conferences where I have presented and discussed my work are:

  1. the 52nd European Safety, Reliability & Data Association (ESReDA) conference, which was held in Kaunas, Lithuania, 30-31 May 2017. Here, I presented a paper titled "Towards a real-time structural health monitoring of railway bridges", which aimed to discuss how the real-time monitoring of bridges can improve the safety, reliability and availability of the whole transportation network, by showing an example of a real-time monitoring method that I have developed during my PhD, Figure 1. 
  2. the European Safety and Reliability (ESREL) conference, which was held in Portoro┼ż, Slovenia, 18-22 June 2017. During this conference, I showed a paper titled "A fuzzy-based Bayesian Belief Network approach for railway bridge condition monitoring and fault detection". The paper discussed a method to assess the health state of a bridge by relying on the analysis of the measurements of the bridge behavior, which are provided by the sensors that are installed on the bridge, and by considering the knowledge of the bridge managers and engineers, Figure 2.
  3. the 11th International Workshop on Structural Health Monitoring (IWSHM), which was held at the Stanford University, California, USA, 12-14 September 2017. In Stanford, I presented the results of a work that I carried out for AECOM, which is one of the most important engineering firm of the world, in a paper titled "A data mining tool for detecting and predicting abnormal behavior of railway tunnels". In this paper, a data mining method was developed in order to analyse a vast database of measurement of the behavior of a railway tunnel. The aim of the data analysis was to point out the most critical area of the tunnel and to predict the future behavior of the tunnel by the means of an Artificial Neural Network (ANN), Figure 3. 

Figure 1. Presenting my research at the ESReDA conference.  
Figure 2. Presenting at the ESREL conference.

Figure 3. Discussing the results of my research at the IWSHM conference in Stanford.

In order to improve my technical skills, I have attended a summer school in Yokohama, Japan, for three weeks, from mid-July to the beginning of August. The summer school, which is called "Asia-Pacific-Euro Summer school (APESS)", aimed to discuss the most recent advancement for smart structure technology by giving a huge networking opportunity to the researchers. In fact, more than 60 researchers from Europe, Asia and America participated to the summer school, and lecturers from all around the world given talk and classes on the most advanced techniques for structural health monitoring and data analysis. Figure 4 shows the picture of the APESS class 2017!!

Figure 4. APESS class of 2017.

Finally, in the last months I participated to the Open Day of the University of Nottingham, where ESR13, Federico, and I talked to the possible future students of the University in order to show some interesting experiments and give to them some useful tips about the university life. You can find more information about the Open Day here.

That's all Folks!

Hope you enjoyed this post.

Monday, 29 May 2017

A conference, a workshop and one seminar: some experiences in order to presents the results of our research

Hi Fellows, 

welcome back! Summer is almost here, finally! Do you feel it? =) 

During April and May, I had the opportunity to attend to a conference, a workshop and a seminar. 
In these situations, I presented the results of our research project to experts and decision-makers. Indeed, I attended the Stephenson conference in London, at the end of April, where I met both experts from industry (such as railway companies, e.g. Bombardier, Network Rail, etc. and consulting firms, e.g. Amey, Mott MacDonald Group, etc.), and professors and researchers from international universities. There, I have given a 20-minutes presentation in order to discuss the first results of the project, which were achieved during the first year of the PhD (Figure 1). 

Figure 1. Presentation at the Stephenson conference.

In a similar way, the 24th and 25th of May, I attended the first TRUSS workshop, where I discussed about my research project with international attendees. During the first day of the workshop, each ESR had a poster presentation in order to explain the objectives of his PhD and discuss possible methods and collaborations with the attendees (Figure 2). On the contrary, during the second day of the workshop, each ESR carried out a presentation with the aim of discussing the last achievements of the research (Figure 3). 

Figure 2. The poster session at the TRUSS workshop

Figure 3. Research progress presentation at the TRUSS workshop.
Finally, in the next days, the 30th and 31st of May, I attend the 52nd Esreda semianr in Kaunas, Lithuania. There, I am going to present my research in front of an international audience that is made of professors, decision-makers and critical infrastructure experts. 

I will keep you updated with the new adventure of the project!! 


Friday, 10 March 2017

Data-mining and future prediction of railway tunnel behaviours

Hi fellows, 

Here we are again. 
I hope this post finds you well!! Are you ready for the spring? =) 

In this post, I am going to explain why I worked on the monitoring of the health state of a tunnel during my secondment, which has been carried out from September to December 2016 at AECOM. Firstly, the secondment is important during the Marie Curie programme, as it gives the possibility to each Marie Curie fellow to experience new work activities in different frameworks (industries, new academics groups, etc.). 
Particularly, the goals of my secondment were defined with the aim of applying the mathematical methods that I have developed at the university, into the real daily world. 

Mathematical methods? Yes, guys, the aim of my PhD is the development of mathematical methods, which are able to automatically monitor the health state of railway bridges by analyzing the data provided by a measuring system (that is sensors) installed on the bridge!! Did you remember? 

However, during the first month of the secondment, the company was monitoring in real time the health state of a railway tunnel due to the fact that the tunnel was requiring some works. Consequently, it was an ideal situation to try my mathematical methods in a real-case study by analyzing and monitoring the tunnel behaviors! 
However, before working on it, I had to convince my bosses by asking to the project-coordinator of the Marie-Curie scholarship the authorization to switching topic of the secondment... and fortunately, during the last week of October, I get the green light!! (Thank you Mr. project-coordinator)

Anyway, AECOM has monitored in real time a railway tunnel (for example, see the figure below) by using a measurement system made by more than 300 sensors for more than 4 months, as the monitoring process started in August. Each sensor provided a value of the tunnel behavior, for example displacement of the tunnel walls, or strain, etc., every second basically, 24/7. Therefore, you can easily understand that the first problem was the data analysis of such big database.

Example of railway tunnel (property of Community Rail Lancashire)

I would like to give you as many information as possible regarding the method that we applied in order to identify the typical behavior of the tunnel and, more important, to point out the unexpected tunnel behavior, but as we are drafting research articles on it, I cannot. I am sorry. 
I can say that we (TRUSS people) developed and applied a data-mining algorithm, followed by a machine-learning method that is able to predict the behavior of the tunnel in the future, and, as this was pretty good luckily, AECOM asked us for the copyright of the codes in order to embed them into their analysis methods. Not to bad, isn't?

Finally, yes, I know what you are thinking, and I agree, 100%. However, you have to seek your fortune sometimes... =) 

See you soon!! 

Monday, 30 January 2017

Introduction of the TRUSS project to the University of Nottingham students

Hello fellows!

I hope you are doing well.
In the last post, we discussed the new challenges of the new year, and we have some great news!!

Firstly, I have worked at AECOM in the last months in order to perform my secondment. During these months, some really interesting results have been achieved and I am going to post them soon. Trust me, very soon!

Then, during November 2016 a new research group has been launched by the university of Nottingham, the Resilience engineering research group (RERG), which is the group where I am working right now. In order to introduce the RERG to the university staff members and students, a workshop was organized on the 9th of November.

4 Academics, 11 research fellows and 16 PhD students compose the operative brain of the RERG group, that aim to develop innovative and efficient methods for asset management, system monitoring (fault detection and diagnosis, prognostic methods), reliability, safety and risk analysis of systems.

The presentation of the group has been held at the conference center of the University of Nottingham on the 9th of November 2016. There, I gave a 20 minutes talk introducing the TRUSS project by explaining its goals, partners, beneficiaries and research programs around Europe. Then, I explained the goals of my PhD (http://trussitn.eu/research/rail-and-road-infrastructure/esr9/) by showing a case study, which has been developed during the first year of the PhD and that will be presented at two conferences during the next months. The audience was mainly formed by students and academics of the University of Nottingham.

Presenting at the RERG workshop

Finally, I would like to give you a quick preview of the next posts:

1. one post will discuss the results of the secondment explaining the reason why I worked on the monitoring of a railway tunnel. Yes, I know, a tunnel is different from a bridge, and my PhD analyses  railway bridges. However, we develop mathematical methods, and Mathematics does not care about the nature of the data, She (meaning her majesty the Mathematics) can assess the health state of every kind of system (or infrastructure) by simply analyzing a continuous flow of data, which are provided by a monitoring system installed on the infrastructure of interest.

2. in another post, I am going to talk about my experience as inspector of a railway bridge during a visual inspection program of a 170-years old railway bridge!

That's all folks!!
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

New academic year, new challenges

Hello all! 

I hope you had wonderful holidays during the summer.

Fortunately, I had a great time during August. However, as October is right behind the corner, a new academic year is approaching with its new challenges and ideas. 

During the first months (3/4) of this new academic year I am going to work at AECOM in order to carry out my secondment within the TRUSS project. 
AECOM is an US engineering firm that provides design, consulting, construction, and management services in the structural framework. 
During these months, I will have the opportunity to speak with bridge and structural experts, that will bring their expertise into the development of my research project. 
I am mainly based at the AECOM office in Chilwell, just 15 minutes drive from Nottingham. However, I will go to spend some time in Birmingham within the bridge and railway management team. 

AECOM office in Chilwell.
During the secondment, we hope to enhance our mathematical method with real bridge measurement in order to demonstrate how the current method for health assessment can be improved. 
The development of such mathematical methods, which are able to monitor and automatically detect the health state of the railway bridges, seems to be needed to improve and guarantee the safety and reliability of the railway network. Indeed, just a month ago, as you can see here, a railway bridge collapsed in Chile!!! 

See you soon with new information and updates!

Monday, 18 July 2016

ESR to the third european conference of the prognostics and health management society

Hello fellows, 

How is it going?  I hope you are doing best. 

In this post, I would like to share with you my experience to the third European conference of the prognostics and health management society, which has been held in Bilbao (Spain) from the 5th to the 8th of July 2016, known as PHME16.
The PHME16 was a very important conference on the prognostic and heath management (PHM) framework, where the experts of PHM from industry, academia, and government had the chance to meet and exchange their ideas. The topics of the conference, of course, was PHM in diverse application areas, such as energy, aerospace, transportation, automotive, and industrial automation.

I attended the conference in order to present the initial results of my research project during a poster session, as you can see from the bottom attached pictures. 
Fortunately, the presentation of the poster, which has been done during a two hours period in front of more than 100 people, has been good and PHM experts have been fascinated by the first results and the whole developed methodology and idea of the project.

Now, it is time to work hard to the next steps, as I am drafting a journal paper and a conference paper!! 

So, let's go!!

See you soon. 
Take care,


P.S.: Insted of "where is Wally?", you can play at "Where is the ESR" in the first picture, enjoy!

The poster session

Me and my poster! 

Friday, 3 June 2016

An update of the project!!!!!


It has been a long time since the last post.... I'm sorry for that, but all my energy has been captured by the project. Indeed, during these months, I have worked hard to the development of the PhD. 

Anyway, hold on! Do you remember my project? You do, I guess. However, you can find the description in my first post (First Post) or in the TRUSS website (Project description ).

I'd like to share with you the main steps that have been achieved:

1. After a long literature review process, which has been finished with an exhaustive report. At this moment, I'm writing a research article, which will be hopefully published in an international journal.

2. I have developed a Finite Element model of a railway bridge. A steel truss bridge has been selected as model thanks to the precious advices of bridge and structural engineers. You can see an example of a truss bridge in the bottom attached picture.

Steel truss bridge

Furthermore, you can see the model that I have carefully developed in the picture below.

The finite element model of the truss bridge that I have developed.

they look pretty similar, isn't it?

3. The analysis of the finite element model has been carried out in order to understand how the health state of the bridge is influenced by the degradation mechanisms, which are continuously acting on the bridge due to environmental effects, such as rain, wind, etc., and the passing-over trains. The results of the analysis, which I cannot show here due to a copyright limitation (such a big word...), show that the degradation mechanism has to be monitored as much as possible. 

4. A Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) has been then developed in order to automatically analysed the behaviour of the bridge and to assess the health state of the bridge. Especially, the BBN that I have developed is able to determine which components of the bridge has to be firstly maintained. it's cool, right? 

I have a question? Do you know what a BBN is? No worries, I'll write a post to explain in an easy way what a BBN is!!!  In the mean time, just to have an idea, you can watch the example below for a Masonry bridge. As you can see, each component of the bridge is represented using a circle and the physical and mathematical relationships among different components are represented by a arrow. It's quite intuitive. 

Example of  BBN describing a masonry bridge

5. The collaboration with our industrial partner has been demonstrated to be more difficult that our beliefs. Therefore, thanks to the collaboration of my amazing supervisors, I had the opportunity to explain my project to the most important railway company of the UK, Network Rail. I held two presentations with them: the former during March in their amazing offices at Milton Keynes (which is a small city close to London) in order to show the aims and objectives of the PhD and to describe a possible collaboration way; The latter, which has been held at the University of Nottingham at the end of April, has shown the first results of the project. Thanks to this second presentation and to the good results of the project, I'm speaking with Network Rail to find an official way to work together!!!! 

I hope you appreciate the progresses of the projects and, please, if you have any question or curiosity, please free to contact me, you can find my details in my webpage (matteo-vagnoli).

I'm sure we are going to meet again soon with the BBN post and new amazing post on my project and adventure.