UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering


PhD Studentship: Massive Space Division Multiplexing for Optical Fibre Communication Systems

PhD Studentship: Massive Space Division Multiplexing for Optical Fibre Communication Systems

Department: Electronic & Electrical Engineering

Primary Supervisor: Dr Filipe Ferreira

Starting date: Available now

Duration of study: Full Time - up to three years fixed term

Application deadline: Applications will remain open until a suitable candidate is found, but if you are interested please apply as soon as possible.

The studentship will cover UK tuition fees and an annual stipend (tax free) of no less than £17,285, increasingly annually with inflation. The studentship is funded for up to 3 years on a full-time basis.

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship to work in the £1.9M UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship “Beyond Exabit Optical Communications – from new devices, via new dimensions to new systems” (2020-2024). This is a UCL-led research programme with leading industrial and academic partners: OFS Optics, Fraunhofer HHI, University L’Aquila, and Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology. This position is at UCL, to work with the Optical Networks Group. The Optical Networks Group has graduated a high number of very successful PhD graduates who have won a series of prizes and awards for their research and are now working in leading academic and industrial research laboratories in the world.

Scientific Context:

Optical communications have to-date been able to fulfil the ever-growing data demand whilst simultaneously reducing cost and energy-per bit. However, it is now recognised that systems are rapidly approaching the fundamental information capacity of current transmission technologies, a trend with potential negative impact on the economy and social progress.

Project Description:

The aim of the programme is to transform optical communications to go beyond current single-mode technology limits with sustainable energy-consumption per bit – arguably the greatest challenge in the field. The vision is to introduce ground-breaking spatial modulation in novel transceivers capable of interfacing advanced multi-mode/core fibres with hundreds of spatial pathways and enabling scalability of all data pathways to reduce the cost and energy-consumption per bit. These new transceivers will be capable of exploiting the multidimensional channel properties in the linear and nonlinear regimes through new spatial modulation formats and coding guided by new information theory and nonlinear science methods.

This PhD programme envisages how to transform spatial division multiplexing (SDM) technology to drive future optical networks by addressing the key issue overlooked by the research community since the introduction of SDM concepts: optical transceivers must undergo >100-fold integration to enable the benefits of multi-mode/core. The successful applicant will address one or more of the following research objectives:

RO1: Explore new information theory and nonlinear science methods with low computational complexity able to accurately quantify the ultimate capacity of spatial-diverse fibres with hundreds of spatial data pathways under challenging pathway crosstalk and walk-off;

RO2: Develop and experimentally demonstrate algorithms, modulation formats and coding to approach those multi-dimensional limits, to maximise the achievable channel capacity whilst minimising the energy per bit;

RO3: Develop a family of spatial-adaptable transceivers capable of interfacing high-count core/mode fibres, implementing novel multi-dimensional modulation and coding schemes, and adapting to different pathway groups for optimised transmission conditions;

RO4: Explore and apply machine learning techniques to optimise the configuration of transceivers by making a heterogeneous use of the mode groups available (e.g. long-reach groups, short-reach groups, machine learning signalling groups).


The successful applicant will have the possibility to undertake one or more research placements at key industrial and research centres, to develop: new fibres at OFS Optics, new photonic chips at Fraunhofer HHI, and/or joint experiments at University of L’Aquila and Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications.



Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a degree (1st or 2:1) in Physics, Electronic Engineering, or similar. Experience of hands-on work in a research environment is also a significant advantage, with a preference for optical communications/nonlinear optics/high-speed digital comms and machine learning. The research can include machine learning techniques to enable data-driven insights from physical experiments in optical transmission. This aspect will require an understanding of machine learning – where some exposure to machine learning libraries, like Tensorflow or similar, is an advantage. Competence/fluency with scientific computing is essential.


How to apply:

This studentship is available to start from January 2021. Applications should be made using the UCL postgraduate study application form and marked to the attention of Dr Filipe Ferreira, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. For further information, interested candidates may contact Dr Filipe Ferreira f.ferreira@ucl.ac.uk with a covering letter and a CV (including marks/grades achieved on current courses).

We will continue to advertise until this studentship has been filled.

About UCL and the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

University College London (UCL) was founded in 1826 as the third university in England, after Oxford and Cambridge. UCL is the first university in England to admit students of any race, class or religion, and the first to welcome women on equal terms with men. UCL is organized into 11 constituent faculties, within which there are over 100 departments, institutes and research centres. UCL has 983 professors and more than 7000 academic staffs who are dedicated to research and teaching of the highest standards. Its student community is almost 36,000, the largest in the UK. There are 29 Nobel Prize winners and three Fields medalists amongst UCL’s alumni and current and former staff. UCL is the top rated university in the UK for research excellence (REF2014). It has a strong tradition and large knowledge base in medical research with a dedicated institute on Healthcare Engineering and 10+ hospitals. UCL has world-class support for researchers and has been voted the best place for postdoctoral researchers to work for consecutive years by The Scientist magazine. The main campus of UCL is located in central London, close to British Museum, West-End and Thames River.

The Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at UCL was established by Professor Sir Ambrose Fleming in 1885 and has a very strong research culture, state-of-the-art research equipment and facilities, and a very rich history of many fundamental research achievements in electronic and electrical engineering. The department has received top ratings in every UK research evaluation carried out to date.

Further information regarding UCL may be found at: www.ucl.ac.uk/

Information about the department may be found at: www.ucl.ac.uk/eee