The University of Southampton

ORC student wins Marconi Young Scholar award

Published: 9 September 2011

A talented engineering researcher from the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton, has been honoured at the prestigious Marconi Society Awards in San Diego, California.

PhD student Joseph Kakande, from Uganda, was selected as one of only three Marconi Young Scholars in this fourth year of the awards for his cutting-edge work in making communications even faster by using all-optical fibres. Marconi Society Chairman Emeritus Robert Lucky said that the scholars selection committee “looked for candidates who showed the potential to win the Marconi Prize – the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in communications science – at some point in the future. As a point of reference, Marconi Fellows have been at the forefront of every modern advance in telecommunications and the Internet.”

Joseph’s work focused on all-optical signal processing as the means of meeting the growth in demand for high-capacity optical communications. The current system of optical-to-electrical-to-optical conversion creates speed and power bottlenecks that cannot sustain the exponential growth in communications. “Electronics is really great for processing,” Joseph explains, “but it can only work so fast.”

Newer technology aims to replicate the functionality of electronic transistors, but uses optical components – flexible pure glass fibres roughly the size of a human hair that are capable of transferring information from one end to the other over longer distances. The advantage is speed: optical techniques easily process more than 10 billion bits a second – about 10 times faster than the fastest conventional computer.

Joseph’s research aims to develop novel methods for processing high spectral efficiency phase encoded optical signals at ultra-high baud rates, using nonlinear fibre optic technologies. In essence, that means using light to control optical signals on ultra-fast time scales. His research is already published in several top journals including the Nature group, and has led to three patent filings, with more in the pipeline. Joseph would like to work for a large corporation in its research and development department. He says: “As a child, I had a fascination with electronics and I always wanted to work at Intel.”

Named Best Student at National Level in Uganda, where he was a student at St Mary’s College Kisubi, Joseph attained first-class honours in electronic engineering from the University of Hull, and is shortly to receive his PhD in optoelectronic engineering from the University of Southampton. His particular interest is in exploring how optical communications, which have revolutionised technology in the developed world, can be deployed in the Third World to empower its most deprived people. As his University co-supervisor, Optoelectronics Research Centre Deputy Director David Richardson says, “I think Joseph has all the capabilities to become a real research superstar.”

The Young Scholar Awards include a financial reward and an invitation and travel funds to attend the annual Marconi Award Dinner.


Notes for editors:

1. The Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) is one of the world’s leading institutes for photonics research based at the University of Southampton. Over the last 40 years, the group has contributed significantly to the growth of the photonics industry.

2.The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health, arts and humanities. With over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover well in excess of 400 million, the University of Southampton is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. It combines academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning. The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres, including the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute and is a partner of the National Oceanography Centre at the Southampton waterfront campus.

3. The Marconi Society is the leading organisation devoted to recognizing and encouraging scientific contributions to communication sciences and the Internet. Established in 1974 through an endowment set up by Gioia Marconi Braga, daughter of Nobel laureate and radio inventor (wireless telegraphy), Guglielmo Marconi, the society promotes awareness of major innovations in communication theory, technology and applications with particular attention to understanding how they benefit society. The Marconi Society annually honours young scholars who are engaged in influential work and are likely to transform their fields in some significant way. Additional information can be found at

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