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 ( 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.  

Monday, 18 January 2016

Introduction to TRUSS ITN Project 9: Railway bridge condition monitoring and fault diagnostics

Hello guys and welcome to my TRUSS ITN blog!

I hope you are fine and you are going to enjoy this breath-taking blog (I'm kidding...).

Firstly, it could be useful a brief introduction to me and to TRUSS ITN. 

I'm Matteo Vagnoli and I'm 26 (almost 27) years old...and that's it! Are you very interested in knowing my background and previous work experiences? So, briefly, I was born in Bibbiena, a small shining village in Casentino, in Tuscany... yes, Tuscany, the region of poetical landscapes, fabulous farmer's kitchen, Florence, Pisa tower, wineries where you can taste blockbuster wines...

Bibbiena landscape

I studied Energy engineering during my bachelor degree at Politecnico di Milano and, then, I gained a master degree in Nuclear engineering from Politecnico di Milano as well. After graduating in my MSc, I worked as research fellow and teaching assistant in collaboration with the Laboratory of Signal and Risk Analysis (LASAR) in Milan, where I wrote four research papers to be published in international journals, and one conference paper (which has been presented during ESREL conference in Zurich on the 8th of September 2015), and I have participated to international projects.    
I'm betting that you are getting bored to hear about me and, thus, if you are really interested in what I have done and what I studied or researched, please, don't hesitate to visit my LinkedIn profile.

Anyway, my interest in reliability, availability, safety, the on-line monitoring of signals and mathematical and statistical methods for preventive and predictive maintenance has been growing ever since I began my master thesis. Working with international experts in the field has allowed me to appreciate the development of procedures and methods for ensuring these aspects in all fields. I consider these as qualities of paramount importance for the health of industrial systems, which are fundamental for our contemporary society. 
For these reasons, when I have found the position for the TRUSS ITN on European commission website, under the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie scheme, I enthusiastically applied. 

The TRUSS (Training in Reducing Uncertainty in Structural Safety) is a Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) project funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 Programme. It is a inter-sectoral and multidisciplinary collaboration between 4 university, 11 industry and 1 research institute from 5 European countries (Ireland, UK, France, Spain and Denmark) and it's funding 14 different structural safety related projects.

My project is "ESR9: Railway bridge condition monitoring and fault diagnostics", which aims to develop a mathematical model by which fault detection and diagnostic process can be established for railway bridges. Indeed, the health state of railway bridge structures is actually determined by visual inspection carried out at fixed intervals of time (from 1 to 6 years). When deterioration process is observed at a degree which requires attention, the maintenance work is scheduled for action. However, visual inspection examines the structure superficially and intermittently and, some type of faults might not be detected in an adequate manner (for example, truss bridge structures experience unavoidable micro-cracks faults, which are created during the welding operation, which may not be recognizable by visual inspection). Finally, the visual analysis needs to be interpreted by an expert, who can be subjective and, thus, the reliability of the visual inspections can be significantly variable in the structural condition assessments. 
In my project, which is carried out under the supervision of Prof. John Andrews and Rasa Remenyte-Prescott from the University of Nottingham, and with the external supervision of Prof. Casas from Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, and with the collaboration of AECOM, we are going to use remote sensor data, which monitor the health state of the railway bridge, in order to develop innovative fault detection methods to automatically, remotely and rapidly assess the health state of the bridge, without sending inspection crews to the site. 

Flowchart of the project

The project started in September 2015 and it will be finished within the September 2018. 
During the first 4 months, I worked on the literature review process and the first results of my research have been presented during the first TRUSS training week in Nottingham on the 3rd of December 2015.

Presenting the results of literature review to the TRUSS members

That's it for this first post.

See you soon!!

P.S.: I said that in Tuscany you can taste blockbuster wines... well, in UK supermarkets, one of the most valuable Italian wine is.... 

...God save the Queen...