Our Early Stage Researchers (ESRs)

Throughout summer and early autumn 2021, MENTOR partners across Europe have been recruiting six Early Stage Researchers (ESRs).

Once an ESR is recruited by the hosting academic beneficiary (Aston University UK, DTU Denmark, Sant’Anna Italy hosting two, UPC Spain also two), the beneficiaries will work together with partners Orange, TIM and Infinera Portugal and Germany to create optical networks solutions for the future.


Watch this space as the six positions are filled with the best early stage ML&AI researchers from across the globe.

Saqib Khan ESR1 AIPT
Abdennour Ben Terki
li zhang esr2
mentor esrs (12)
lareb khan

MENTOR Early Stage Researchers

ESR1 Saqib Khan obtained his Master’s in Computer Science from The Grenoble Institute of Technology, France, specialising in Data Science. During this time, he developed a machine learning approach to mitigate the problem of limited availability of data using transfer-based learning. Saqib brings several years of experience working on the development of machine learning solutions within the telecommunications, aerospace, and manufacturing industries. He has worked in the domain of the numerical analysis of systems to identify correlations of activity recognition, monitoring sensor data and measuring multimodal data streams from computing devices using neural networks ranging from multilayer perceptron to transformers and variational autoencoders. Saqib is pursuing his PhD at the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies at Aston University in the UK.

ESR2 Li Zhang received her Master’s in Communication Science and Engineering from Fudan University, Shanghai, China. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Machine Learning in Photonic Systems (MLiPS) with the DTU, Technical University of Denmark. Her research focuses on exploring few-shot learning strategy to enable smart communication systems with the ability of fast self-learning. Her work to date has provided a practical solution and overview for the smart visible light system, which specifically includes problems of classification for prompt data recognition and optimization for MIMO Precoding in the presence of Poisson noise. Recently, she has been working on a few-shot learning diagram to minimize the noise of the optical amplifier. This is expected to increase the transmission distance and decrease the computational overhead.

ESR3 Lareb Zar Khan received his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Pakistan in 2017. He then worked for Pakistan’s largest telecommunication company for two years where he mainly dealt with copper access networks. He was also a member of the Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) project planning team. Following two years of industrial experience, he resumed his studies with an Erasmus Mundus graduate study program, PIXNET, where he spent the first year at Aston University (United Kingdom), the third semester at Osaka University (Japan) and the final semester at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy). In his Master’s thesis, he worked on Signal Processing Algorithms for Fiber Nonlinearity compensation. A particular focus was sequence selection technique, optimized for nonlinear channels in order to obtain an improved lower bound of achievable information rate.

ESR4 Abdennour Ben Terki graduated from École Nationale Polytechnique of Algiers, Algeria and the University of Quebec, Canada in Electronic Engineering. He was awarded with Erasmus Joint Masters SMARTNET Scholarship and obtained a Masters in Smart Telecom and Sensing Networks at  Aston University, UK specialising in 5G Broadband Infrastructures. Abdennour did an internship at Orange Labs in France on the SINR modeling performance analysis, studying details of different models to estimate the quality of coverage through the signal to noise ratio in an environment close to operational reality. He looked at the mesh of a territory and the zone for different network topologies, selecting the best compromise between the precision of each model and software performance (execution time, memory consumption, etc.) and also, optimizing the software performance of the selected methods.

ESR5 Mariano Devigili obtained a BSc in Information and Communication Engineering at the University of Trento in Italy. During his undergraduate studies, he took part in an Erasmus student exchange programme at the University of Valencia in Spain for 10 months where he also did a three month internship designing FTTH/GPON distribution networks at Telecomuniciones de Levante SL. For his post graduate studies, he completed the PIXNET Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degree at Aston University in the UK, at Osaka University, Japan and at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy. At Sant’Anna, Mariano completed his thesis, “An experimental study on the multiband optical networks assisted by GNPy”.

MENTOR Project Co-ordinator

“The Early Stage Researchers, along with MENTOR’s industry and academic partners, will form a robust team with complementary skills and expertise”.


Professor Sergei K Turitsyn
Director of the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (AIPT), Aston University & MENTOR Project Co-ordinator

Each ESR will research an aspect of MENTOR’s remit. This will form the basis of their funded PhD, while also providing them with a network of contacts and the latest skills 

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