PhD Studentship in Photonic switching (Microsoft optical technologies for the cloud)

University of Cambridge - Department of Engineering

Applications are invited for a Microsoft Research funded PhD project in the area of optical fibre communications. The growth in the scale of the internet has led to the constructed of ever larger datacentres. Although optical technologies have been used for inter-server communications for some time in such centres, the bandwidth demands are leading to interest in the potential for high speed optical routing. Such routing could enable reduced energy consumption and new efficient data center architectures. Building on recent work at Cambridge which has demonstrated the feasibility of constructing a new form of nanosecond optical routing switch which can allow record port counts in excess of 1000 x 1000, this project will consider the development of this new generation of technology for practical data centre applications. The research will involve both experimental and theoretical studies working and involve close collaboration with experts in Microsoft Research.

The student will be based in the Department of Engineering, but will be part of a virtual research centre that Microsoft Research is initiating with the University of Cambridge, University College London (UCL), and University of Southampton to investigate and develop optical technologies for the cloud. The centre will take a multi-disciplinary approach to tackle big and open challenges with an aim to enable greater adoption of optical technologies in cloud infrastructure, including cloud storage, network and compute. The research will span a significant part of the cloud infrastructure ecosystem, ranging from photonics fabrication, to optical system and sub-system design, to co-design and integration with the rest of the data centre stack.  The centre will provide a vibrant collaborative research environment, involving experts across optical and cloud research disciplines, with an open publications policy. Each PhD student will be hosted and supervised by a university faculty member and co-supervised by a Microsoft researcher. The student will also benefit from discussion, insights and feedback from practitioners at Microsoft and more broadly, through greater interaction with partners in industry and academia. Internship in one of the Microsoft Research laboratories may also be available, involving working on a project alongside and as part of a team of Microsoft researchers. The PhD student would be paid during their internship, in addition to their scholarship bursary.

The applicant should have (or expect to obtain by the start date) at least a good 2:1 (and preferably a Masters degree) in engineering or a related subject such as computer science, mathematics, statistics or physics. For informal enquires please contact Prof Ian White (email

Funding - Full funding for 42 months covering: the University Composition Fee for Home/EU candidates only, a tax-free stipend, and an allowance for travel and consumables, with effect from 1st October 2018.

Students from overseas are not eligible for this studentship and should not apply.

Applications should be submitted via the University of Cambridge Graduate Admissions web pages, with Prof Ian White identified as the potential supervisor

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

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