RUB Bauwesen CompEng

Considering the Health of Civil Structures: Interview with Junior Professor Dr.-Ing. Inka Müller

 

Since January 2018, Dr.-Ing. Inka Müller is the junior professor for Structural Health Monitoring at the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The junior scientist can already look back on a veritable picture-book career: following a dual bachelor’s degree at University of Siegen and working in the development division of SMS group GmbH (formerly SMS Siemag AG); she completed her dissertation at the chair of Mechanics and Control Engineering – Mechatronics at University of Siegen – all with outstanding results. During her master program, she also had the opportunity to broaden her cultural horizon while studying one semester abroad in Tokyo and through a stay in Yokohama. Afterwards, she got to know science from the perspective of research funding, as she was a program officer at the German Research Foundation (DFG) in the field of materials science and technology. Beside her academic knowledge, she has a lot to tell, which she proves in the following short interview

 

In the past winter semester, you took on a junior professorship for Structural Health Monitoring here at the faculty. What is meant by this and how does this research field fit into the research profile of the faculty?

Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) always sound so much like “health”, right? Well, basically, that’s what it is – it is about the health of structures that are constantly supervised – thus, monitored. Systems such as bridges, buildings, tunnels, but also pipelines, wind turbines or aircrafts are understood as structures. For the condition monitoring of structures and buildings over a longer period of time, we use permanently installed sensors for data acquisition and develop automated methods of data evaluation to provide information about the current condition, possible damage and damage locations, etc. The methods used for this structure monitoring are manifold. Vibration- and wave-based methods as well as the investigation of intelligent data analysis methods form the focus of my work and fit excellently into the research profile of the faculty. Thus, I see links in the field of mechanized tunneling, as well as in the monitoring and durability analysis of prestressed concrete buildings, steel and composite constructions. One of the origins of the SHM is the nondestructive material testing, which might lead to a promising cooperation with the faculty here as well.

How did you decide for engineering? Has it always been your plan to work in a technical field?

To recognize, what binds creation's inmost energies has always been interesting to me. However, not the most interesting. The days when I am satisfied with my daily work are, in particular, those in which I get the notion that I am doing something good for our society or something that might have a favorable effect on our future. The engineering sciences are perfectly suitable for this. Fundamental oriented research of engineers generates an improvement of knowledge, which can and should bring benefits for the application and thus our society. Therefore, I decided to study engineering and, later, to remain in the scientific field.

Well and what does “always” mean? It could have also been physics or computer science – in any case, I never wanted to become an industrial manager, a foreign language correspondent or primary school teacher – just to use some stereotypes here.

Keyword ‘future plans’: What do you want to achieve within the next years?

My big aim is to make SHM systems ready for application. For example, a profound problem for the certification still lies within the quantification of the reliability of these systems. This problem has been following me for years now, so that I want to develop new methods considering reliability, in order to make them successfully usable for our society. In the field of research, I aim to develop SHM systems that are more robust, as today many methods that perform well in the lab are reaching their limits in real-world applications.

Last but not least, good teaching is very important to me. I would like to teach and supervise our students in such a way that they can evaluate SHM systems offered to them, for example, in a project of bridge renovation. Inspired by buzzwords such as digitization and condition-based monitoring and maintenance, monitoring strategies throughout the entire life cycle of buildings in the future will be increasingly important for our students. Therefore, I would like to prepare our students in the best possible way.