Department of Engineering / Profiles / Dr Seb Savory

Department of Engineering

Dr Seb Savory


Seb Savory

University Lecturer in Photonics & RF Systems

Academic Division: Electrical Engineering

Research group: Photonics

Telephone: +44 1223 7 62390



Research interests

Background: My research is focused on optical fibre communication, whereby digital data modulates light that is then transmitted over huge distances using optical fibres. According to the 2009 IEEE ROGUCCI report, over 99% of all long distance international data traffic is carried using optical fibres and as such they underpin the internet and today’s global communication infrastructure. It is rich area of research, which encompasses both the theory and practice of engineering, ranging from developing new science, mathematics and technology to understanding the environmental, economic and societal impact which these optical fibre communication systems have on today’s global community. It is an area I have found fascinating that I have been actively carrying out research in for almost twenty five years.

My current research explores four areas:

1.    Algorithms for digital coherent transceivers. Research is focused on synchronisation and equalisation algorithms for digital coherent receivers, including both reduced complexity and fast algorithms that are able to converge and recover the data in < 200 ns.

2.    Ultra-dense passive optical networks. The target is to offer uncontended 10GbE and beyond to the home, employing coherent detection for sensitivity improvements and frequency selectivity. Recent research has focused on simplifying the subscriber side receiver, for example employing Alamouti coding with heterodyne detection to reduced the number of required receivers from 4 to just 1.

3.    Statistical optical communication system design. This research area includes probabilistic design and the investigation of rare (but catastrophic) events on optical fibre communication systems.

4.    Cognitive optical networks. With the creation of software defined transceivers, cognitive optical networks emerge in which the flexibility and intelligence imbued on the transceiver is utilised to improved the performance of the network, for example increasing capacity and/or resilience. Key research challenges include determining the capacity of a nonlinear optical network and the optimal abstraction of the physical layer for a software defined network orchestrator. 

Teaching activity

Part IA

  • Mathematical Methods: Lecturer (fast stream) 
  • Exposition: Co-ordinator and cohort leader
  • Integrated Electrical Project: Cohort leader
  • College supervisions for paper 3 (Electrical & Information Engineering) and paper 4 (Mathematical Methods)

Part IIB

  • Module 4B23 Optical Fibre Communication:  Module leader and lecturer
  • Project supervisor (for two project students)

Other positions

  • Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge
  • Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (FIEEE) for contributions to digital coherent transceivers for optical fiber communication
  • Fellow of the Optical Society (FOSA) for contributions to digital coherent transceivers for optical fiber communication
  • Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (FIET)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Chartered Engineer (CEng) registered with Engineering Council U.K.
  • Chair of the Steering Committee for the Optical Fiber Communication (OFC) Conference (having previously served as a General Chair of OFC in 2015 and a Program Chair of OFC in 2013)
  • Member of the Board of Governors for the IEEE Photonics Society


Seb J. Savory received M.Eng., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in engineering from Cambridge, an M.Sc. (Maths) in mathematics from the Open University and a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education from UCL.

His interest in optical fibre communication began in 1991, when he joined STL (subsequently Nortel) in Harlow, the birthplace of the field. Having been sponsored by Nortel through his undergraduate and postgraduate studies, he rejoined the Harlow Laboratories in 2000. In 2005, he moved to UCL where he held a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship from 2005 to 2007, before being appointed as a Lecturer (2007), Reader (2012) and Professor (2015). In October 2015, he was elected as a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge and in January 2016 moved to Cambridge as a University Lecturer. For his contributions to digital coherent transceivers for optical fibre communication he was elected a Fellow of the IEEE and the OSA in 2017.

He has taught electronics, maths and optical fibre communication systems at both UCL and Cambridge and was heavily involved in the design of the Integrated Engineering Programme at UCL (when he was Undergraduate Tutor and Programme Director within the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering). More recently he has become the Director of Undergraduate Education within the Engineering Department.

Externally, he serves as a Member of the Board of Governors for the IEEE Photonics Society and Chair of the Steering Committee for the Optical Fiber Communication Conference. He is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the IEEE, IET, OSA and HEA.

Department role and responsibilities

Director of Undergraduate Education