20 December 2011
Detecting credit card fraud and student plagiarism requires an expert knowledge of statistics. Dr Niall Adams, Reader in Statistics ( Mathematics), spoke to Reporter about enthusing academics to apply their research to industry problems and his role as an Imperial Consultants Knowledge Transfer Fellow (KTF).
What does a KTF do?
My role is to encourage and support academics in the Department of Mathematics who would like to act as consultants. Consultancy is important for the College and academics because it demonstrates the impact of research, provides real-world problems to work on, and generates revenue to support additional research activities. Acting as an experienced bridge between colleagues and Imperial Consultants, I can help academics new to consultancy to avoid potential pitfalls, such as not getting a contract in place or misunderstanding what the client wants, and to find interesting projects to work on.
What can mathematicians offer industry?
All mathematical researchers are trained to solve problems. Although engineering is often considered a much more natural world for consultancy, maths is such a diverse activity and can be found in numerous areas, including security systems, economics and retail finance. For example, number theorists may work in applications related to cryptography, while statisticians focus on applications that generate random data. In the past, a number of my colleagues have acted as expert witnesses in legal cases and industrial tribunals. For example, in copyright infringement cases they use statistical models to detect plagiarism.
What’s the most interesting consultancy project you’ve worked on?
A defence, security and aerospace company wanted to detect and protect a computer network from malicious software. Working alongside colleagues, we developed a methodology and algorithms to detect concealed and malicious behaviour by analysing constantly changing graph data, generated from communications between the computers. It was a nice project because it related closely to my current research.
—Anne Coleman, Imperial Consultants