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The Frank Hansford-Miller Fellow in 2021 was Dr Manuel Herrera who presented his lecture virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research in Engineering Statistics: Current trends and future challenges

Dr Manuel Herrera - Research Associate, Institute for Manufacturing, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge (UK).

The field of engineering statistics broadly focuses on how to use statistical methods to solve engineering problems, ranging from manufacturing processes to asset management. The first part of this talk will deal with this topic but from the opposite direction: What does it mean to face an engineering problem for a statistician? This question is often overlooked, although it is key to the development of novel procedures and insights both for engineering and applied statistics. Beyond the technical challenges that data handling and analysis may pose, from an applied point of view, it is necessary to solve an engineering problem efficiently and in an explainable way. The statisticians need, firstly, to reach a proper comprehension of the engineering framework and, secondly, to adapt any methodology development to the current data availability and a suitable model-interpretability level. Both aims represent, today, a shift in the engineering statistics paradigm. The first involves working towards a multidisciplinary approach as an innovative way for problem-solving in engineering. The latter revolves around engineering systems becoming intense generators of data, since they are often associated with new disruptive technologies such as the IoT and cyber-physical systems. Consequently, big and complex data are now ubiquitous in engineering and new research directions in network science and time series mining are trending for analysis of (spatially distributed) networks and streams of multiple time series.

The talk, therefore, will address the challenges that multidisciplinary and explainability approaches pose to statisticians. In addition, it will provide an overview of problems and methodologies for dealing with engineering problems of today. This encompasess examples on criticality analysis of telecommunication systems, maintenance of transport systems, resilience assessment of water networks, and optimal management of smart ports.


Dr Manuel Herrera is a Research Associate in distributed intelligent systems at the University of Cambridge. He has a PhD in Hydraulic Engineering and a degree in Statistics. His research focuses on predictive analytics and complex (adaptive) networks for smart and resilient critical infrastructure and utilities. Manuel’s interdisciplinary profile has proven to be successful in terms of the number and quality of publications; having a high academic impact. His latest research deals with AI-enabled management and maintenance of the UK national infrastructure. He is currently involved in projects of topics ranging from telecommunications to 5G ports. Manuel is a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and a member of IEEE and the Complex Systems Society.

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