Engineer receives the Royal Society Research Professorship award

Polina Bayvel - Credit: James Tye/UCL.
Polina Bayvel - Credit: James Tye/UCL.
Professor Polina Bayvel (UCL Electronic and Electrical Engineering) has been honoured with a Royal Society Research Professorship, in recognition of her major contributions to the field of optical networks.

The Royal Society Research Professorship offers long-term support to world-leading researchers, enabling them to focus on ambitious and original work within a UK academic institution. It has rarely been awarded in an engineering discipline and is the first time it has been awarded to a UCL engineer, and is a testament of the global importance of Professor Bayvel’s research.

Professor Bayvel CBE FRS FREng , who is Head of the Optical Networks Group, is an accomplished electrical engineer who has significantly advanced the field of high-bandwidth, multi-wavelength optical communication networks. Over her career, her work has centred on optimising the speed and capacity of optical fibre transmission systems & networks.

The Optical Networks Group (ONG) was established by Professor Bayvel in 1994 to focus on optical communications and networks across various time and length scales. Her research ranges from massive networks that span oceans, to networks between and within data centres. Notably, she pioneered the use of the wavelength domain for routing in optical networks and designed important wavelength-selective devices for their characterisation and deployment.

Professor Bayvel said: "We all’use and create large quantities of digital data. Much of this data is stored in the ’cloud’ and supported by optical fibre networks. These networks form the critical communications infrastructure, essential for economic prosperity and security. As the amount of data transmitted by these networks varies, the properties of the networks change. The next-generation optical communication infrastructure will operate on different timeand length scales and needs flexibility, high data throughputs, resilience, and security."

The contributions of Professor Bayvel and her research group have been widely adopted in commercial systems and networks that form the backbone of the Internet and digital communications infrastructure. She has won numerous awards for her work and has authored or co-authored more than 500 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers. In 2017, she was awarded a CBE for her services to engineering.

Her current research aims to enhance optical communication networks by introducing greater intelligence and flexibility. Professor Bayvel proposes that self-driving networks will be required that adapt to varying demands, providing high-capacity, low-delay connections for emerging cloud applications. This interdisciplinary approach will combine experimental physics, mathematics, and brain-inspired network science to optimise network architectures and support new applications.

She said: "My vision is to introduce intelligence into the optical communication cloud infrastructure and to develop network architectures and topologies, optimally able to support and adapt to capacity and delay needs of new applications, and in the process reduce complexity and delays. This is a new approach to optical network design."

Dr Matt Midgley

E: m.midgley [at]
  • University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000