Curiosity creates…a better connection

Posted on September 16, 2020

You tap a few buttons on your computer or smartphone and, within minutes, you’re online and connected to information and people around the world.

While the last few decades have seen internet users go from the loud screeches and wails of dial-up internet to lightning fast high speed data, there’s always room for improvement. While modern fibre optic networks has sped up the rate at which data can transfer, there are still some ‘speedbumps’ on the information superhighway.

Mina Bagheri headshot

Mina Bagheri is a second-year PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and she is seeking ways to increase the efficiency of wavelength selective switch-based ROADMs (reconfigurable optical add and drop multiplexers) – devices that help route signals through fibre optic networks – and thereby make it easier for high speed signals to make it to your home or office with higher quality.

“We want to increase the capacity to keep as much data as possible flowing for customers,” she said. “Unfortunately, because of the random behavior of photons in a fibre and the limitations of the equipment and devices that we use in an optical network, it is not possible to completely compensate and even calculate precisely the noises and distortions effect on the quality of signal.”

That’s why, using machine learning techniques, Bagheri is trying to model the best path for the signal when it passes through the filter, calculate the effect of filtering on the signal quality, and compensate for this distortion effect to achieve a higher quality signal at receiver.

Ever since she was quite young, Bagheri wanted to work with electronics. That passion led to her to study and work in telecommunications in her native Iran. Her work within a telecommunications research centre sparked her curiosity, and Bagheri decided to return to school for her PhD. Her search for the best place to continue her research led her to Queen’s and John Cartledge.

“Queen’s has been great for graduate studies, and it is a privilege to work with my supervisor,” she said. “I especially recommend Canada and Kingston for international students. The city is quiet and beautiful, and the people so are nice and welcoming.”

Bagheri’s work in improving the quality of optical signals is a bit of a personal concern as she tries to stay in touch regularly with her family back in Iran via the internet. COVID-19 meant her plans to take a trip home after her comprehensive exams were scrapped.

“I have used the time to find new hobbies and explore new possibilities,” she said. “I am trying to see the positive side.”

One of those positive moments came after her comprehensive exams, which were a huge morale booster for Bagheri. After having spent many years out of school, she was concerned about whether she could successfully return to academia.

“There was a hesitation for me when the pandemic began and I wondered ‘can I do this?’” she said. “When I passed my second comprehensive exam, I realized I could. It is a great memory of my time here.”

After graduation, Mina hopes to work in the research and development centre of a company focused on telecommunications and fibre optics. So, if you notice internet speeds continuing to increase and signals becoming clearer in the coming years, you can thank researchers like her for helping to create better connections.

For more information on graduate programs in Electrical and Computer Engineering, please visit the Faculty’s website.