Fully funded 4 year EPSRC PhD studentship in Optical Clock Synchronisation for Sub-Nanosecond Accuracy Time Synchronised Radio Access Networks


   Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

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  Dr Kari Clark  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Duration of study: Full time - four years fixed term

Starting date: Flexible, to start by September 2023

Application deadline: Monday 24th April 2023 (or until filled)

Primary Supervisor: Dr Kari A. Clark, Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, University College London (UCL)

Applicants are invited to apply for a PhD studentship to work in the Optical Networks Group (Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, UCL) to develop new, low-cost, highly scalable sub-nanosecond accuracy time synchronised radio access networks (RANs).

Funding: The 4-year fully funded studentship covers UK tuition fees and provides an annual stipend of £19,668 (2022-2023), which increases annually with inflation and is tax free. Additional financial support will be provided to cover lab equipment, lab consumables, computer resources and books, as well as for travel to attend workshops, training courses and conferences. Exceptional international applicants may receive additional funding to cover international fees.

Project Background: The development of radio access networks (RANs), through which wireless devices communicate with the internet, was critical for enabling wireless devices such as mobile phones to transform our lives. Future 6G enabled society-transformative wireless devices, such as autonomous vehicles, autonomous drone fleets and augmented reality, will impose challenging new requirements on RANs. These devices need to locate themselves to sub-meter accuracy in difficult environments such as in tunnels, within buildings and in urban canyons, which in turn requires that the radio antennas that the devices connect to are time synchronised to central radio processing with sub-nanosecond accuracy. The key research challenge of this PhD project is to research new approaches to time synchronisation that can achieve sub-nanosecond accurate RAN time synchronisation while also supporting the high data rates and high network scalability necessary for future 6G systems.

Project Aim: The aim of the project to experimentally demonstrate sub-nanosecond time synchronisation using an optical clock synchronisation and digital clock phase compensation approach, as well as to explore the fundamental limits of the approach by investigating the impact of optical and electronic impairments on the achievable synchronisation accuracy and network scalability. This research will predominantly involve experimental research at our research laboratory at UCL, including digital hardware design using field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and the modification and construction of electronic and optical hardware testbeds, supported by analytical modelling and simulation performed in MATLAB or Python.

Qualifications required: Applicants should have at least an undergraduate or Masters degree in a relevant field such as Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Physics, Telecommunications, Mathematics or Computer Science.

The following would be strongly desirable in the candidate:

  • A strong interest in performing hands-on experimental work in a research laboratory.
  • Knowledge of and a passion for electronic hardware and optics.
  • Computer programming experience (e.g. using MATLAB, Python, C and/or C++).
  • Knowledge of mathematics (to a level as taught within the undergraduate degrees listed above).

About the Optical Networks Group: The successful applicant will be part of the Optical Networks Group (ONG), Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering. The ONG has a 28-year history of performing world-leading research in optical communications. ONG has graduated a very high number of very successful PhD graduates who have won a series of prizes and awards for their research. Our graduates now work in leading academic and industrial research laboratories in the world. The student will have opportunities to collaborate with researchers on the ATOM project (Accurate Time and radio signal distribution through Optical access networks to enable sub-Metre positioning accuracy) as well as the EPSRC TRANSNET (Transforming optical networks – building an intelligent optical infrastructure) programme grant.

External Collaboration Opportunities: The successful applicant can expect to have plenty of opportunities to work and develop connections with ONG’s industrial collaborators, such as BT, ADVA and Microsoft, as well as with ONG’s academic collaborators, such as the University of Southampton and the University of Cambridge.

Training Opportunities: The successful applicant will be given as much 1-to-1 training as is required to assist the applicant in developing and gaining the specific skills and knowledge necessary to perform the research in the PhD project. The successful applicant will also gain access to the extensive selection of training for PhD students available from the UCL Doctoral School and will also be encouraged to attend external training courses and workshops to gain further new skills and expertise.

How to apply: Applications must be made using the UCL online application system  and indicate the name “ONG/Clark”. Further information about the PhD degree offered by UCL may be found here.

The application must be submitted with the following: a CV; a cover letter which includes a description of how your profile, knowledge and skills will suit the PhD project; and the names of two referees with their email addresses.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion: ONG believes that our research thrives thanks to our diversity – our research is driven forward by talented researchers and PhD students that come from countries and backgrounds across the globe. Almost a quarter of our members are female – about 10% higher than the UK average in engineering – and indeed have been extremely successful, including Wenting Yi, one of our PhD students who won the IEEE Photonics Society Award as well as an IEEE Women in Photonics Travel Grant in 2022. The team is supported by two trained Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs).

We therefore strongly encourage applications from underrepresented backgrounds in engineering, such as women, ethnic minorities, or people with disabilities to apply – ONG is a great place for you to study! We will make reasonable adjustments at interview and/or in the position as requested.

Contact: For informal inquiries please feel free to contact Dr Kari A. Clark ([Email Address Removed]) who will be happy to answer any queries about the project. You do not need to send your CV with your informal inquiry, but it will help Kari to best answer your query if you do provide one.


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