Imperial College London

EEE celebrates our latest academic promotions: Professor Eric Kerrigan

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Eric Kerrigan

Working across two engineering departments brings rewarding collaborations with colleagues

Six members of our academic staff have received promotions in Imperial's 2021 round. Today we meet Professor Eric Kerrigan.

Eric Kerrigan, promoted to Professor of Control and Optimization 

The goal of the class of methods that I specialise in, namely predictive control, is to design a feedback strategy that predicts and improves the response of a dynamical system, despite the presence of uncertainties such as modelling errors and unreliable measurements. Predictive control is widely used all over the world to design more efficient and reliable systems in every aspect of society, with applications as diverse as autonomous vehicles to pandemic management. The challenge in control system design is to ensure that the controller can be trusted to be more efficient and reliable than any other design, especially in safety-critical applications. The aim of my research is to develop numerical optimization methods that allow us to engineer closed-loop systems with the required, rigorous guarantees of performance, robustness, safety and resilience. 

The best of both worlds

I am very fortunate to be a member of both the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering as well as the Department of Aeronautics. Having to be in two places at the same time has its challenges, but also its rewards. This joint appointment has made is easy for me to collaborate with interesting colleagues on a variety of fun and rewarding applications, ranging from aerodynamic drag reduction in aeroplanes and road vehicles, to gust load alleviation in wind turbines, space vehicle re-entry, communication in networks of aerial vehicles, computer architecture design, power electronics and energy management in buildings. 

Research-led teaching

Working on this wide range of applications not only informs the research questions that I work on, but also directly informs my teaching. In the Control Systems module in the Department of Aeronautics, my goal is to help students gain the necessary concepts and mathematical skills that enable them to teach themselves how to implement advanced optimal control methods as soon as they finish the course and start their group design project, which has included mission design for inter-planetary probes and optimal racing strategies for electric vehicles. The adventurous students that take my Predictive Control module in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering can proudly say that they have applied hot-off-the-press methods to solve challenging trajectory optimization problems in robotics. 

I enjoy the experience of different people and disciplines intersecting and therefore encourage my multi-disciplinary research group to work with at least one other team member or someone outside our circle. Solutions in one domain can often be applied to solve problems in completely different areas. We all learn from and help each other every day – my PhD students and staff collaborate with Masters project students to develop software and mathematics that can have a very real impact in society. Sometimes it can take a while to understand each other, because of our different technical backgrounds and approaches to problem solving, but it’s such a great feeling when things fall into place to create something that is far more than the sum of its parts.


Our congratulations to Eric — and to all our staff on their recent promotions — from everyone in the EEE Community!

Reporter

Jane Horrell

Jane Horrell
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6263
Email: j.horrell@imperial.ac.uk

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