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PhD Studentship (3 years) Optical Phase Conjugation Based Optical Networks / Energy Efficient M Communication using Combs (EEMC)

College of Engineering & Physical Sciences - Studentships

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours GMT on Sunday 31 January 2021
Reference:  R200128
Release Date:  Friday 13 March 2020

Applications are invited for a 3-year Postgraduate studentship, supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), to be undertaken within Aston institute of Photonic Technologies (AiPT) at Aston University. 

This studentship is available to start in either October 2021 or January 2022.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the home/EU fees rate, plus a maintenance allowance of £15,285 (subject to eligibility. Actual stipend figure may be different for academic years other than 2020/21). 

Overseas Applicants

Applicants from outside the EU may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between the ‘Home/EU’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees. Currently the difference between ‘Home/EU’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees is £12,843 in 2020/21. As part of the application you will be required to confirm that you have applied for, or, secured this additional funding.

Research Environment

The Aston institute of Photonic Technologies (AiPT) is the oldest photonic communications research group in the UK. It was founded on the unique combination of advanced fibre grating based devices with state of the art optical communications research, and has recently been supplemented with fibre laser technologies, all of which are of direct relevance to this proposal. The PhD student will benefit from full scale experimental, computing, and office resources and facilities to their project a success including a fully equipped system research laboratory, including 400Gb/s test beds, high speed electronic test equipment including 70 GHz real time oscilloscopes. AiPT also has extensive fibre grating facilities, including Sabre Fred UV lasers, femtosecond inscription systems. Large-scale simulations will initially be performed on a local 200 core-computing cluster and may be transferred to the ARCHER high performance computer. AiPT currently hosts around 18 PhD students, who are members of the Aston Graduate School, and organise local OSA and SPIE chapters. Chapter activities include annual seminars, outreach activities and sharing of best practice / technical news.

The successful candidates will work alongside experienced researchers on EPSRC funded research projects, and will be required to undertake secondments to the collaborating partners. They will be a member of the Aston Graduate School, which provides a supportive environment for all research students across the University, including a Graduate Development Team and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences who together provide a range of training and development opportunities for research student.

Project Context

Digital technologies directly support over 1.4M jobs throughout the UK (4.4%), and directly impact the lives of the 74% of households with broadband connections and 82% of the population registered as unique mobile users. These technologies rely on a backbone optical fibre network; part of the UK Photonics industry itself responsible for an industrial value of £13.4M per annum. Employment opportunities within both the Communications/ICT and Photonics sectors are thus particularly strong. Exponential traffic growth is driven by both the continuing evolution network access technologies, including 5G and 6G networks with base stations directly connected to the fibre network, and the ever increasing range of applications, including Smart Cities (high bandwidth video and big data) and the Internet of Things (providing more connections than the global population). Whilst innovative technologies have been employed since the 1970’s, supporting exponential traffic growth requires continuous innovation, and radical solutions are now required.

Project 1: PhD Studentship in Optical Phase Conjugation Based Optical Networks

The successful candidate for this post will work alongside experienced researchers on the EPSRC funded project “Photonic Phase Conjugation Systems (PHOS)”. This fully funded three year PhD studentship will provide an outstanding graduate the opportunity to undertake research, leading to a PhD, within the context of a mutually beneficial research collaboration between the Aston University, the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton, and BT. The project aims to resolve the “capacity crunch” – a consequence of the finite capacity of an optical fibre associated with both noise and nonlinearity. Un-combatted, this capacity crunch will eventually limit access to the internet to something similar to today's levels.

If successful the applicant will study the impact of optical phase conjugation on the overall performance of optical networks. They will develop and adapt optimisation models translating physical parameters into network performance, they will propose and develop techniques to overcome inevitable degradations encountered in a network environment, demonstrate substantial improvement in network capacity and finally trial the solution in a real world environment. The successful candidate will split their time between the Aston institute of Photonic Technologies, and BT at Adastral Park. They will enjoy the benefits of world leading system test and modelling facilities at Aston, and will ensure the real world relevance of their research through collaboration with BT.


Project 2: Energy Efficient M Communication using Combs (EEMC)

The successful candidate for this post will work alongside experienced researchers on the EPSRC funded project “Energy Efficient M Communication using Combs (EEMC)”. This fully funded three year PhD studentship will provide an outstanding graduate the opportunity to undertake research, leading to a PhD, within the context of a mutually beneficial research collaboration between Aston University, Dublin City University, and Pilot Photonics. The project aims to develop low cost all optical techniques to continue to expand the bandwidth of individual transceivers which power the internet. The proposed solution has the potential to be compact, suiting applications both within data centres operated by the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft and within the core international networks where high performance is paramount. The solution will address important challenges at such high bandwidths, such as synchronisation, noise and digital signal processing. If successful the project will deliver a transponder with more than an order of magnitude more capacity than those commercially available.

If successful the applicant will develop novel transponders based on advanced optical frequency comb chips. They will propose and develop techniques to overcome limitations from finite bandwidth and quantisation of analogue to digital converters, demonstrate substantial improvement in transponder capacity, feedback enhanced chip designs to the manufacturer, and finally trial the solution. The successful candidate will split their time between the Aston institute of Photonic Technologies, and Dublin. They will enjoy the benefits of world leading system test and modelling facilities at Aston, chip design at Pilot Photonics, and device level characterisation at Dublin City University.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution), in Physics or Electronic Engineering (or a subject related to optical communication).  Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of photonics or communications. 

We would particularly like to encourage applications from women seeking to progress their academic careers. Aston University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recognised recently by a prestigious Silver Award to EAS, and we pride ourselves on our vibrant, friendly and supportive working environment and family atmosphere.

Contact information

For formal enquiries about this project contact Prof Andrew Ellis by e-mail (andrew.ellis@aston.ac.uk).

Submitting an application

Details of how to submit your application, and the necessary supporting documents can be found here.  

There is one studentship available, with a choice of two projects. Please ensure to clearly indicate your preferred project in your   application.

Applications may be accompanied by a professionally referenced “research proposal” statement, which is consistent with the aims of one of the two projects outlined above and demonstrates the applicants understanding of the current challenges of the specific research area. Candidates should take this opportunity to detail how their knowledge and experience will benefit the project and should also be accompanied by a brief review of relevant research literature.

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at 

pgr admissions@aston.ac.uk 

Applicants should be aware that appointments will be made once suitable candidates are available and so should avoid unnecessary delay.

Email details to a friend

Further particulars and application forms are available in alternative formats on request i.e. large print, Braille, tape or CD Rom.

Aston University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.



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