Francis Baumont de Oliveira
Tell us about your researchMy research focuses on decision support for vertical farming under risks and uncertainty. Vertical farming requires deep expertise, combining horticulture, lighting, irrigation, electricity, operations management and the list goes on. The tool I'm developing aims to centralise information, compare business strategies and help entrepreneurs reduce their enterprise's risk. My PhD project has covered topics of: economics, environmental impact assessment, risk analysis, and manufacturing systems.
Can you summarise your research in one sentence?Developing decision support for vertical farms through economic viability modelling and environmental impact assessment
What interests or inspires you about your research/field?Vertical farming is a agricultural tool that is a food-water-energy nexus in an urban environment that engages with a plethora of issues facing the world. The sector combines my passions in engineering, sustainability and harnessing the power of nature. Business strategy, manufacturing methodologies and risk management are key areas of interest for me within this sector.
Tell us an interesting fact related to your research or fieldMost crops grown conventionally for disease resistance and transport. With vertical farming we can focus on flavour, nutrition and quality whilst delivering fresh produce within an extremely short time frame.
How did you get to where you are now? Tell us your journey!Started with a master's aerospace engineering and pursued by undergraduate thesis on aquaponic food production as I was curious about producing food for space travel. This snowballed into pursuing a PhD in vertical farming as a means to combine my interests.
How do you manage the stresses of academia? Tell us what hobbies keep you afloatWorking out and photography
What progress/invention would you like to see in the future?I'd like to see high-quality fresh produce available at an affordable price to all consumers
Cognitive Neuroscience (fancy term for psychology)
Tell us about your researchI'm currently researching the mechanisms that drive gambling behaviour, and looking into better ways of regulating the industry and improving risk communication with policy-makers
What interests or inspires you about your research/field?The relationship between the brain and behaviour is something that has always fascinated me. Understanding how changes in brain structure/function can influence the actions and decisions of an individual is a truly amazing thing, providing us with better approaches to broader social and philosophical issues. The reason I focused on addiction is because of just how common of a disorder it is. Addiction can be devastating, distorting an individual's decision-making abilities and often leads to other negative health outcomes later in life. Hopefully from this research we might be able to help reduce the incidence rate and inform future treatments.
How do you manage the stresses of academia? Tell us what hobbies keep you afloatIn order to combat the stress of academia, I do daily walks (usually 10-15km). Just being able to go out and get some air can help alleviate stress. I also tend to play videogames or work on my poetry in my free time.
What one change would you like to see in academia?I'd like to see a greater focus on providing mental health care services to academics, especially PhD students. A study by Levecque et al (2017) found that over 30% of PhD students were at risk of having or developing a common psychiatric disorder.
What progress/invention would you like to see in the future?A diffusion-based functional imaging technique or an unlimitied taco buffet
Can you summarise your research in one sentence?No I couldn't
How did you get to where you are now? Tell us your journey!BSc Theoretical Physics > Civil engineering job > PhD
How do you manage the stresses of academia? Tell us what hobbies keep you afloatBy keeping a good work/life balance. No evening/weekend work unless essential
What one change would you like to see in academia?Less snobbishness about positions
Theoretical Ecologist, Uncertainty Analysis, Risk Analysis
Professor (Chair of uncertainty)
Tell us about your researchWe work on figuring out how we can best use data that is bad (sparse, imprecise, nonrandom, etc.). How can you relax assumptions and still get reliable calculations and useful inferences? For instance, how could you make use of damaged medical test kits while protecting standards of healthcare? How should you judge the accuracy of a scientific model when the empirical data is itself imprecise? How can you plan engineered structures so that they reliably perform even when there is uncertainty about the stresses they will experience? How should we account for uncertainty in pronouncements by experts? How should computer algorithms be designed humanely so as to accept human diversity and tolerate human errors?
Can you summarise your research in one sentence?We make methods and tools to relieve scientists and analysts from making a lot of simplifying assumptions (linearity, independence, normality, etc.) in cases when they don't believe them. Can I change my sentence later?
What interests or inspires you about your research/field?Statisticians haven't yet settled on the way to estimate the probability of an event. You'd think they'd have worked out such a fundamental thing by now.
Tell us an interesting fact related to your research or fieldStatisticians haven't yet settled on the way to estimate the probability of an event. You'd think they'd have worked out such a fundamental thing by now.
How did you get to where you are now? Tell us your journey!I was a child of the Apollo program, which was America's frenzied, fearful reaction to the Cold War threat of being left behind technologically. It was before the age of the internet, or the photocopier, or the mall. We actually believed those things about the march of science and progress, and justice and honor, but education is the telling of smaller and smaller lies. Missed the Vietnam War, but also missed Woodstock and narrow neckties (both go-rounds). Professional student for 25 years, small research firm for another 30. University of Liverpool instead of retirement in Florida. Imposter complex, but doesn't everyone have that? Found that the greatest good comes from asking the dumb questions. It's hard though.
How do you manage the stresses of academia? Tell us what hobbies keep you afloatNo one can handle the stresses of academia. Hobbies?
What one change would you like to see in academia?People should abandon emails as their primary communication tool. We are in the thrall of emails, and they are damaging to intellectual life. We need less intrusive and more organised schemes that are shallow but multiply structured and would be more easily searchable, indexable, archivable, cross-referenced, and automatically linked.
What progress/invention would you like to see in the future?Engineers should fix transportation. Transportation is horribly inefficient, dangerous, expensive, and environmentally disastrous. Like everyone, I am looking for the jetpack that I was promised as a child. Actually, personal self-driving helicopters based on like 8 or 12 little drones could eliminate the need for roads. They might do nicely, especially if they could just bring me the groceries. Failing that, an efficient, non-commercial information infrastructure to make travel smarter could go a long way toward fixing transportation.
Human reliability analysis (My background is Chemical Engineering)