Benita Nortmann, Research Postgraduate, Aeronautics 

“From smart manufacturing to autonomous flight, I believe that control and automation will play a crucial role in the future of the aerospace industry.” 

If science is all about understanding the world around us, engineering is about using this knowledge to build systems that make our environment safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Control engineering in particular, focusses on using mathematical models to design input laws, which allow us to modify and shape the behaviour of such systems. 

My PhD project at Imperial’s Department of Aeronautics explores the role of information in control engineering and how to overcome the lack of it. Particular focus is given to networked systems, which consist of multiple interconnected parts such as power networks or satellite constellations. The aim is to develop systematic control design methods which guarantee a desired performance based only on limited available information. This challenge is addressed in my research by combining methods from dynamic game theory, which provides tools to model the interaction of strategic decision-makers, and direct data-driven control, in which unknown system information is replaced directly with measured data. 

Before starting my PhD in 2019, I obtained my MEng in Aeronautical Engineering, also at Imperial. From smart manufacturing to autonomous flight, I believe that control and automation will play a crucial role in the future of the aerospace industry. Having the chance to contribute to new knowledge in control theory as part of my PhD is extremely exciting and I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds. 

The last one and a half years have been challenging for each of us in their own way. For me, this unusual time really highlighted the importance of hobbies and social interactions in my life. In my free time, I love to go walking or hiking, preferably in the mountains, but during lockdown I discovered a lot of beautiful spots in and around London, such as Richmond Park and Epping Forest. 

Beyond that, I also enjoy climbing and I am a committee member of Imperial’s Shotokan Karate society this year. Karate sets great value on respecting the beauty in every moment and on constantly thriving to learn and improve oneself – values that are a great inspiration for every aspect of life.  

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