Interview with Fellows

“…this broadens my eyesight in the research”. Interview with MULTIPLY Fellow Yiming Li

Dr. Yiming Li received his BSc, MSc, and PhD degrees on Electrical Engineering at University of Electronic Science and Technology of China. The main field of expertise is free-space optical communication, including channel modelling and digital signal processing. He was involved in a number of scientific projects related to these subjects (including an international exchange program sponsored by the China Scholarship Council) and was awarded some prizes. He was a winner of the Chinese National Scholarship and Tang, Lixin Scholarship.

Now Yiming Li is a MULTIPLY Fellow at Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies. The title of his project is “On High Capacity MIMO Free Space Optical Communications”. We asked Yiming to tell us more about his work and impressions of the MULTIPLY Programme.

– What are the benefits for a researcher to be the MULTIPLY Fellow?  

For the MULTIPLY Fellows, there are inter-organisation communications such as seminars and presentations. This is important for me because this broadens my eyesight in the research. Moreover, there are some outreach and dissemination activities, which can help us to learn communication and presentation skills and know more about the opinions of others about your project. Of course, as a MULTIPLY Fellow, I can earn a higher salary which is also good. 

– Why did you want to work at Aston University?  

Aston University has an optics group with a great reputation named Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies. This group is doing researches on different aspects of optics and photonics. And most of them are fantastic. Moreover, Prof. Ellis has an interest in my research area which is high capacity free-space optics.

Photo from Yiming’s laboratory

– What is innovative about your research?  

Our research mainly focuses on expanding the data capacity by exploiting the Laguerre-Gaussian modes. This is a quite new area. And it can give us much faster communication systems if successful.  

– Could we say that you are one of the pioneers in this area? Do you have interesting collaborations now?  

I would be more prudent on this. The programme is more about merging different existing technologies to achieve a higher transmission speed rather than inventing a new fundamental theory. Yes, we have an official collaboration with the University of Glasgow and The British Telecom. And they are doing interesting parts of this programme as well.

– What difficulties did you face during the implementation of your MULTIPLY project? 

This project is very expensive. And we have to simplify the structure of the system to save money and meet the budget. But this simplification gives us more challenges in building the system. 

On the other hand, COVID-19 slows down everything and it is another disadvantage. 

– Maybe you’ve found any advantages in this Covid situation? What have these quarantine times taught you?  

COVID gives me a higher degree of freedom in research. This may be an advantage. I can choose to adjust my working times to the most productive moments.  

In general, the quarantine time gives me more information about the UK government and people. The way they fight with COVID is very different from Eastern countries. And I see virtue in different forms from different countries. 

– Has your area of interest changed or expanded due to the work on the project?  

I would rather say my area of interest is naturally expanded rather than changed. And it is a good thing to learn more about optical communications. 

– Do you have any plans for your future? What are you going to do after the MULTIPLY?  

After the MULTIPLY, I plan to accomplish the project first. It is a 3 years project in total and MULTIPLY is the first stage of it. With regards to further plans, I hope I can find a long-term position in academia. But it is too early to consider this in detail.