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PhD Studentship (3 years): Comb Based Optical Communications

College of Engineering & Physical Sciences - Studentships

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Wednesday 07 September 2022
Reference:  R220370
Release Date:  Wednesday 15 June 2022

The Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (AiPT) is delighted to offer a funded PhD studentships in Comb Based Optical Communications. 

The position is available to start in October 2022, or January 2023

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the home fees rate, plus a maintenance allowance of £16,062 in 2022/3 (subject to eligibility). 

Overseas applicants may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between the ‘Home’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees. Currently the difference between ‘Home’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees is £14,054 in 2022/3. As part of the application process, you will be required to confirm that you have applied for or have available this additional funding. Outstanding overseas applicants with relevant publications or research experience will be able to apply for an AiPT scholarship to fund the fee difference.

Background to the Project

This PhD project aims to develop technologies for significantly increased data capacity, supporting the continued growth of the internet and associated technologies.

The 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 fiber grating-based devices with state-of-the-art optical communications research and has recently been supplemented with fiber 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 success including a fully equipped system research laboratory, including 400Gb/s testbeds, high-speed electronic test equipment including 70 GHz real-time oscilloscopes. AiPT also has extensive fiber grating facilities, including Sabre Fred UV lasers, femtosecond inscription systems. Large-scale simulations facilities on a local 200 core-computing cluster. AiPT currently hosts over 22 PhD students, who are members of the Aston Graduate School and organize local OSA and SPIE student chapters. Chapter activities include annual seminars, outreach activities, and sharing of best practice / technical news.

The successful candidate 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 students.

Overall 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 fiber network; part of the UK Photonics industry itself is 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 of network access technologies, including 5G and 6G networks with base stations directly connected to the fiber 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 1970s, supporting exponential traffic growth requires continuous innovation, and radical solutions are now required.

The PhD Project

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 Ltd. 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 centers 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 synchronization, 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.

The applicant will develop novel transponders based on advanced optical frequency comb chips. They will propose and develop techniques to overcome limitations from both the finite bandwidth and quantization of analog 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 AiPT, and the Dublin project collaborators. They will enjoy the benefits of world-leading system test and modeling facilities at AiPT, chip design at Pilot Photonics, and device-level characterization at Dublin City University.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) in Electrical Engineering, Physics or related disciplines with final year options relevant to photonics or communications, or from applicants holding a combination of qualifications and/or relevant experience equivalent to or above that level. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of photonic components and optical communication systems.

Applicants, where English is not their first language, will need to demonstrate adequate proficiency in English Language skills, with a minimum overall score in each section of either the TOEFL or IELTS language tests.

We would particularly like to encourage applications from groups traditionally underrepresented in the Electrical Engineering research field, including women.  Aston University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recognized recently by a prestigious Silver Award at both School and University levels, and we pride ourselves on our vibrant, friendly, and supportive working environment and family atmosphere. We are a Disability Confident Employer Level 2. We strive to have robust inclusivity strategies in place, including race and sexual orientation, to encourage colleagues to have the confidence and freedom to be themselves in the workplace. For more information, visit:

Contact information

For informal enquiries about this opportunity, please contact Prof Andrew Ellis by email at If you require further information about the application process, please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at 

Submitting an application

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

Whilst an original proposal is not required as the initial scope of the project has been defined the application should be accompanied by a professionally referenced “research statement” of no more than three pages plus references (a suitable template which may be adapted for this purpose may be found here, which demonstrates the applicants understanding of the current challenges in high-performance optical transponder design. Candidates should take this opportunity to detail how their knowledge and experience will benefit the project and should include a brief review of relevant research literature. 

Please include the supervisor’s name, project title, and project reference in your application.

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Aston University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.  It promotes equality and diversity in all aspects of its work. We are committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recognised by a silver award, and we are a Disability Confident Employer Level 2. We strive to have robust inclusivity strategies in place, including race and sexual orientation, to encourage colleagues to have the confidence and freedom to be themselves in the workplace. For more information, visit:

As users of the disability confident scheme, we guarantee to interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy.

If you require the job details document or an application form in an alternative format please contact the recruitment team at



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