My research is in optical communications and networks. Optical fibres enable the critical digital communications infrastructure and the Internet. Thought to have almost infinite capacity, they are being stretched by the unprecedented and growing digital data demands, and the expectation of the future Internet of Things. As a communications channel, the optical fibre is unusual in being both optically nonlinear and dispersive, which means that its properties change with optical intensity and wavelength. I am interested in understanding the nonlinear operating regime and its limits, and in maximising the achievable capacity of these nonlinear optical channels and networks. I am exploring this through the use of new wavelength routing algorithms, nonlinearity-tailored signal processing and transmission, novel optical fibres and amplifiers, materials and devices.
I have benefited hugely from having inspiring and supportive mentors, flexible funding, and superb students and colleagues. This has helped build and maintain a critical mass in my research, so very important in experimentally-based science. The arrival of children has been professionally disruptive, especially because Anatoly, now a successful and busy physics professor at King’s College London, was at Queen's University Belfast until 2010. He is still frequently away. As an only child, I feel a heavy burden of responsibility for my mother's care. Having parents nearby, excellent nannies, little sleep, and a lot of home help have proved key. However, there are career sacrifices: my travel, so important to visibility and exchange of ideas, has been reduced, with many invited talks turned down - I send my students and postdocs instead. Well worth it, though - my boys are a great source of inspiration, joy and fulfilment!