UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Prof Polina Bayvel

Prof Polina Bayvel

Professor of Optical Communications & Networks

Dept of Electronic & Electrical Eng

Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL
1st Dec 1993

Research summary

Professor Polina Bayvel is the Head of the Optical Networks Group (Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering), UCL, a research group she set up in 1994. Her research interests are in the area of optical communications and networks on different time- and length scales (from trans-oceanic distances to intra- and inter-data centre communications and routing. This includes the analysis and implementation of wavelength-routed optical networks, high-speed optical transmission, and the study and mitigation of optical fibre nonlinearities. She was one of the first to show the feasibility of using the wavelength domain for routing in optical networks, and designed wavelength-selective devices needed for their characterisation and implementation. More recently she has focused on the study of capacity limits in ultrawideband nonlinear optical networks and nonlinearity-mitigation techniques. She has authored or co-authored more than 350 refereed journal and conference papers.

She has led the UK EPSRC Programme Grant UNLOC (2012-2018), focused on unlocking - and maximising - the capacity of optical fibre communications. She is a vocal advocate for the importance and need for ubiquitous, secure, low-delay and high-capacity communications infrastructure to support the digital economy and new applications with the potential to transform people’s lives. She currently leads the EPSRC Programme Grant TRANSNET (2018-2024): https://gow.epsrc.ukri.org/NGBOViewGrant.aspx?GrantRef=EP/R035342/1 focused to transforming optical networks for the cloud through the combination of machine learning and intelligent transceivers.

Teaching summary

Currently 2nd year tutor and final year project supervisor of 3rd & 4th year students.  As a Royal Society URF, during 1993-2003 teaching commitments were limited.  However, during this period I contributed at all levels of undergraduate, postgraduate and external teaching and supervision.  Critical has been in the integration of student projects within the optical communications and networks research stream, an area which I introduced and built up in the Department, creating a first academic system engineering group in this area.  This has resulted in excellent student projects with highly motivated and research focused students, leading to a string of student prizes and with many continuing in research, development or design in universities and industry. Most U/G or masters’ level projects (100+ over the last 28 years) have produced output of publishable level.  This is the direct outcome of my approach to teaching.

Co-applicant on the successful EPSRC ‘Technologies for broadband communications’ - now renamed 'Wireless and Optical Communications' Masters Training Programme and was and continue to be actively involved in the development of its curriculum. One of the most successful teaching programmes in the Dept and an excellent feeder for PhD students.

Actively promoting research opportunities for undergraduates through the Rank Prize Funds Summer Scholarship programme and the Faculty of Engineering Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme (UROS), which I set up. This ensures a highly successful seeding of optoelectronic and optical networks research interests at undergraduate level, with a string of prizes at national level and providing a cross-Faculty benefit (MAPS, FES, LCN) with a number of students continuing to PhDs at UCL.

Successful supervisor of over 30 PhD students, most are now working in leading industrial and academic laboratories in areas related to communications & ICT.


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1990
University College London
First Degree, Bachelor of Engineering | 1986


Polina Bayvel received her BSc (Eng) and PhD degrees in Electronic & Electrical Engineering from University of London, UK, in 1986 and 1990, respectively. In 1990, she was with the Fiber Optics Laboratory, General Physics Institute, Moscow (formerly USSR -now Russian - Academy of Sciences), under the Royal Society Postdoctoral Exchange Fellowship. She was a Principal Systems Engineer with STC Submarine Systems Ltd, London, UK, and Nortel Networks (Harlow, UK, and Ottawa, ON, Canada), where she was involved in the design and planning of optical fibre transmission networks. During 1994-2004, she held a Royal Society University Research Fellowship at University College London (UCL), and in 2002, she was appointed to a Chair in Optical Communications & Networks.

Professor Bayvel is a Fellow of the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng), Optical Society of America (FOSA), Institute of Electronic & Electrical Engineers (FIEEE), the UK Institute of Physics (IoP), and the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). She was the recipient of the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2007-2012), 2013 IEEE Photonics Society Engineering Achievement Award, 2014 Royal Society Clifford Paterson Prize Lecture and Medal and the 2015 Royal Academy of Engineering Colin Campbell Mitchell Award for 'pioneering contributions to optical communications technology' (shared with 5 members of her group). In 2021 she was awarded the Thomas Young Medal of the Institute of Physics - the first woman and the first UCL recipient: 


She was awarded CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2017 New Year's Honours List for services to engineering: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/new-years-honours-list-2017