UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering


Appreciating our postdocs

24 September 2021

Our postdoctoral researchers are the powerhouse of the Optical Networks Group. They actively progress our research and guide other members of the team, working together to transform the future of optical communications.

Photo of Kari Clark in the lab

Our postdoctoral researchers are the powerhouse of the Optical Networks Group. They actively progress our research and guide other members of the team, working together to transform the future of optical communications. They are essential to the success of ONG – the diligence, creativity and teamwork that goes into every output comes from them, and we are so thankful for their efforts. Get to know more about our postdocs below. 

Ruijie Luo

Dr Ruijie Luo joined the team in December 2019 as a postdoctoral researcher as part of the TRANSNET Programme. He enjoys the all-levels approach (from devices to systems) to ONG research and getting to collaborate with colleagues across different institutions. Before UCL Ruijie was pursuing his PhD at Tsinghua University in Beijing, working on synchronised control mechanisms for optical networks and their applications to improve the speed of lightpath configuration to support high-dynamic applications. 

What are you currently researching?

I work on RT1: Intelligent Network Architectures and Topologies as part of the TRANSNET Programme, working closely with Robin Matzner, Ottino Alessandro, Georgios Zervas, Polina Bayvel, here at UCL, alongside Yi-Zhi Xu and David Saad at Aston. We look at optical network topology design, dynamic routing and resource assignment, throughput estimation, etc. My role includes developing ideas, methodologies, building platforms for these research topics, coordinating researchers, and writing corresponding communication materials to improve the impact of our research.

Top papers: 

Understanding structural and physical property performance implications in optical networks (Journal of Optical Communications and Networking) Intelligent design of optical networks: which topology features help maximise throughput in the nonlinear regime? (ECOC 2020).

What is your favourite research tool or piece of equipment?

Robin and I built a network toolbox which means everyone can conduct network simulations without duplicating basic work. It is efficient to run it on servers, which significantly accelerates our research.

What motivates you as a postdoc?

The desire of exploring unknown principles in optical networks, developing intelligent optical networks to support future communication applications, and working with a group of talented researchers to improve my own skills.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like travelling, swimming, table tennis, badminton, pop music, and attending parties.

Describe postdoc life in three words?

Explore. Pursue. Enjoy.
Anastasiia Vasylchenkova

Dr Anastasiia Vasylchenkova has been a member of the Optical Networks Group since October 2020 after completing her PhD at the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies where she investigated modulation schemes for optical communication based on the nonlinear Fourier Transform. 

Anastasiia currently holds a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship and is working on developing analytical and numerical models for signal propagation, and especially nonlinear distortion, in ultrawideband transmission. 

Related paper: 
Full-spectrum periodic nonlinear Fourier transform optical communication through solving the Riemann-Hilbert problem (Journal of Lightwave Technology)  

What interests you most about the field of optical communications? 

To me, it’s so impressive and inspiring to see the reach of photonics both globally in terms of research and its impact on the modern world. It’s great that engineers and physicists are working together to solve challenging tasks, pushing the boundaries of today's technologies. 

What is your favourite research tool or piece of equipment?  
I am not an experimentalist, so mine would be a piece of research software. I am a great fan of Wolfram Mathematics, it’s helpful for a huge range of tasks – from calculating slow converging functions to drawing a map of a research project's collaborators.  

What is the secret to a successful postdoc? 

I believe success comes from building confidence in moving on, setting ambitious tasks, going for inspirational collaborations. And most of all, writing convincing proposals. Writing, writing, writing. 

What are you passionate about outside of work?    

I find great pleasure in mentoring others, creating educational activities, and advocating for a critical and analytical approach to observations and information. 

If you could change one thing about postdoc life, what would it be? 

The research job feels very insecure - you feel constant pressure for keeping going, you permanently have to think where to go next, because your contract ends soon. It is a noticeable source of stress, and I would very much like to get rid of it. 

Fabio Aparecido Barbosa

Dr Fabio Aparecido Barbosa joined ONG very recently (welcome, Fabio!) after completing his PhD at the University of Campinas (Unicamp, Brazil) where he investigated digital signal processing (DSP) algorithms for coherent optical receivers employed in transmissions with probabilistic constellation shaping. 

What are you currently researching? 

I am working on the project ‘Beyond Exabit Optical Communications’ under the supervision of Dr Filipe Ferreira (a former TRANSNET researcher, and now a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow). We’re aiming to transform optical communications to go beyond current single-mode technology limits with sustainable energy consumption per bit, one of the greatest challenges in the field. I am responsible for the development of DSP strategies, coding and detection methods to enable the efficient use of transmission resources. 

Tell us about a memorable paper.   

A special paper for me is ‘Digital Coherent Optical Receivers: Algorithms and Subsystems’ by Professor Seb Savory. This publication was my first introduction to coherent optical communications systems, I remember reading it back in 2015 during my first week as a master's student at Unicamp. When Professor Seb Savory wrote this paper, he was a member of the Optical Networks Group at UCL (he's now at the University of Cambridge and one of the investigators on the TRANSNET Programme).   

 What is your favourite research tool or piece of equipment?  

This inherently depends on the research moment itself. Transmission experiments – that use modulators, fibres, amplifiers, oscilloscopes and lots of other fun pieces of equipment – are always challenging, but it’s so gratifying when those moments work because it enriches our knowledge about research concepts that we (generally) start by modelling through computer simulations.  

Describe postdoc life in three words.  

Well, I have only just started my postdoc life, but would describe it as: Pushing Scientific Boundaries – a great message for academic life in general.  

What do you like to do outside of work?  

I am a sports enthusiast – in my spare time, I love cycling with my wife and friends, skateboarding, playing football and hiking. I am also passionate about visiting museums and historical places. In addition, I enjoy watching movies and playing video games. 

Eric Sillekens

Dr Eric Sillekens is a postdoc on TRANSNET having previously completed his PhD on machine learning and digital signal processing as a member of the Optical Networks Group.

What interests you most about the TRANSNET Programme?

The programme brings together a vast amount of experience in the field of optical networks and complements it with novel machine learning algorithms which will transform the future of optical communications around the world.

What are you currently working on?

I am optimising our high-speed transmission testbed to make it an ideal platform to demonstrate the machine learning techniques developed by me and my colleagues at TRANSNET.

Related paper:

Optical Fibre Capacity Optimisation via Continuous Bandwidth Amplification and Geometric Shaping (IEEE Photonics Technology Letters)

What is your favourite research tool or piece of equipment?

The best tool in research is collaboration, even the most brilliant minds amongst us benefit from a fresh perspective on daily challenges.

What does success as a postdoc look like to you?

Being able to work as a team to tackle projects bigger than what we can manage by ourselves. And demonstrating awe-inspiring experiments!

What are you passionate about outside of work?

I completely relax by being outdoors, whether that’s a walk in nature or a grueling bike ride. The wilderness recharges me.

A huge thank you to our postdocs – we couldn't perform our ground-breaking research without you! Take a look at our Research and Facilities page to learn more about the work of the Optical Networks Group.