Get to know our postdocs: Eric and Yi-Zhi

Our postdoctoral researchers are the powerhouse of TRANSNET, actively progressing our research and guiding other members of the team to do the same so that we can achieve our mission of transforming the optical network. They are essential to the success of the programme – the diligence, creativity and teamwork that goes into every TRANSNET output stems from them, and we are so grateful for their efforts. Meet two of our postdocs, Dr Eric Sillekens and Dr Yi-Zhi Xu, below.

Yi-Zhi Xu

YX profile photoDr Yi-Zhi Xu has been a member of the TRANSNET Programme since February 2020 having previously worked as an AI researcher for Lenovo (Chengdu) Ltd. He is based at the Aston Institute of Photonics.

What’s your role in TRANSNET?

I work with Ruijie Luo and Robin Matzner on dynamic routing problems (also with Professor David Saad and Professor Polina Bayvel), contributing to Research Theme 1 (Intelligent Network Architecture and Topologies) and Research Theme 3 (Learning Algorithms for Optical Networking in the Nonlinear Regime). Mainly, I do the algorithm performance tests and some parts of the draft – lookout for a new publication soon...

Related paper:

  • Scalable Node-Disjoint and Edge-Disjoint Multi-wavelength Routing (currently under peer review and available as a preprint on arXiv).

What interests you most about the TRANSNET Programme?

We have many talented researchers with different expertise all working together to solve lots of fascinating problems. It’s also great to see our research and the tools we develop being applied to industry through collaboration with our project partners.

What is your favourite research tool or piece of equipment?

My iPad is a convenient way to read papers and make notes.

Describe postdoc life in three words.

The beginning of my postdoc was quite stressful. I started a month or so before the coronavirus pandemic and I didn’t expect to be regularly working from home for 18 months, but I’ve adapted to this different way of working now and find postdoc life more peaceful. I also feel hopeful for the future thinking about all the interesting research we get to do as part of the TRANSNET Programme.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like reading, watching funny videos and cooking.


Eric Sillekens

ES profileDr Eric Sillekens joined TRANSNET in June 2020 after completing his PhD on machine learning and digital signal processing as a member of the Optical Networks Group at UCL.

What interests you most about the TRANSNET Programme?

The programme brings together a vast amount of experience in the field of optical networks and complements it with novel machine learning algorithms which will transform the future of optical communications around the world.

What are you currently working on?

I am optimising our high-speed transmission testbed to make it an ideal platform to demonstrate the machine learning techniques developed by me and my colleagues at TRANSNET.

Related paper:

What is your favourite research tool or piece of equipment?

The best tool in research is collaboration, even the most brilliant minds amongst us benefit from a fresh perspective on daily challenges.

What does success as a postdoc look like to you?

Being able to work as a team to tackle projects bigger than what we can manage by ourselves. And demonstrating awe-inspiring experiments!

What are you passionate about outside of work?

I completely relax by being outdoors, whether that’s a walk in nature or a grueling bike ride. The wilderness recharges me.


To discover more about our work, please take a look at the TRANSNET publications page.