UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering


Say hello to Alejandra Beghelli

15 October 2020

Alejandra returns to the Optical Networks Group as a Lecturer in Optical Communications & Networks, having previously completed her PhD here in 2006. Find out about Alejandra’s new role, her proudest professional achievement and her love of reading, below.

photo of Alejandra Beghelli

Welcome back! What are you looking forward to most about returning to ONG?

Thank you! I am definitely looking forward to an inspiring environment where ideas can be born, shaped and re-shaped through constructive discussion, to be finally transformed into great results. Right now, that is difficult to achieve with the current Covid-19 restrictions, but I am looking forward to it when this health emergency passes. Meanwhile, I am enjoying our online meetings, learning what everyone is up to.

Tell us about your new role.   

On the teaching side, I am helping with the modules of Design and Professional Skills, Optical Transmission and Networks and, Computer Programming. All of them covering very nice topics I really enjoy teaching!

As a supervisor, I am working on applying machine learning techniques to solve different problems. Some of these problems are close to me, as how to allocate resources in optical networks. But some are more challenging, as I am not expert in the application area that students would like to work on. Adding captions to videos using the latest advances on artificial intelligence is one of them. Anyway, as someone that loves learning new things, I can never be thankful enough to my students for presenting me with new challenges every year! 

"In its way to your computer, data need to have a path ‘wide enough’ to get through. Finding such a path quickly and using the network resources efficiently is my job"

Finally, research-wise, I am working on designing and evaluating new ways of making sure people can get the resources they need to communicate through the network. When you watch a movie, a lot of data are being transferred from the movie server to your computer. In its way to your computer, data need to have a path ‘wide enough’ to get through. Finding such a path quickly – so your movie does not get stalled – and using the network resources efficiently – so everyone can watch their movies when to want to – is my job. With everyone working from home right now, this problem becomes even more relevant!  

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve experienced during your career so far? 

At some point in my professional life I transitioned from a very comfortable position – where I had several students to work with and enough physical and financial resources to sustain the research work – to a very deprived position (not a single student and no access to resources). That unfavourable situation lasted for a few years. Keeping on doing research (and publishing!) in those difficult conditions was definitely the biggest challenge I have experienced so far in my career.

And what is your proudest achievement?

I was born into a poor, uneducated family in a Latin-American country under a dictatorship that got rid of anything similar to critical thinking in the education system. Getting out of poverty (thanks to a lot of hard work and the generous help and support of many people and institutions!) and obtaining my PhD degree after those inauspicious beginnings is by far, my proudest achievement.

What do you like to do outside of work? 

Reading is my biggest addiction. I like to read several books at the same time and my free time never feels long enough to read all the books I would like to! A few years ago, my husband bought me an electronic reader in an attempt to avoid me filling the house with books. It didn’t work: I kept on buying the paper books I could find in the libraries in Chile and started to buy the electronic ones that were not available in paper format!

Second to reading, visiting forests, parks and historical places.

Covid-19 means that many of us are working from home at the moment. What are your tops tips for effective remote working?

I am a very structured person, so setting up meetings to talk to my students or colleagues is not a new way of working for me, it suits my personality! So, I am afraid I will not be very original or helpful here: keep a big ‘to-do’ list for the long term, break it up in small ‘to-do’ lists so you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve every day and stick to it. Then, have regular breaks and appreciate the fact that you are lucky enough to have a job during these uncertain times. 

Alejandra is also a member of the Institue of Communicaitons and Connected Systems.

To learn more about the teaching modules mentioned above please take a look at the departmental study page.