Esteban Bernal – CQUniversity

His PhD research topic: Smart sensor node for freight wagon condition monitoring systems

Focused on developing an innovative on-board monitoring system for railway freight wagons that combines analogue signal processing with the latest Internet of Things technologies for real time condition-based monitoring.

This project aims to achieve a reliable, easy to install, cost-efficient, wireless device to manage condition monitoring.


When did your PhD commence?
I started in July 2017. Previously, I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, a Postgraduate Diploma in Machine Design and a Master’s Degree in Engineering. In 2013, I started as research assistant at a Colombian University, working to refurbish the local metro vehicles. It was an amazing experience and at this time I knew I wanted to be a railway researcher.

What’s your specific role in the project team?
I’m in charge of conceiving the condition monitoring device, determining the freight wagon parameters to be measured, and designing the algorithms, software and hardware required for its successful operation. In simpler words, guided by great researchers at CQU’s Centre for Railway Engineering, I’m responsible for making real-time condition monitoring a feasible possibility for massive freight trains.

What’s been the most interesting thing you’ve learnt so far during your PhD?
I attended the International Symposium on Dynamics of Vehicles on Roads and Tracks held at Rockhampton in August last year. It was an incredible experience getting to know worldwide experts and researchers whose work I had read before. I learnt a lot about railway vehicle simulations, design of monitoring systems and generally, how important railway systems are for the nation’s economy and our everyday life.

Why are you interested working in rail research?
It’s an opportunity to work with the latest technology developments and big machines. I have been in an academic atmosphere since I was a child, and I can’t think of a different environment that I like more! Being able to read, learn, experiment, research and create technology every day is a dream come true.

What do you enjoy doing away from university?
I love building and flying RC model aircrafts, and 3D printing. I also have non-nerdy hobbies like swimming and camping.

What’s been the best rail trip you’ve taken in the world?
In 2014, I was in Poland, doing my Master’s Research project. I went from Krakow in the south to Gdansk in the Baltic Sea. It was the first time travelling by myself and my first journey in a long distance train. The railway system was very old and landscapes were incredible, it was an amazing experience.

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