Pushing the Limits of Modeling Photonic Hardware

Editor's note:

EE senior Jackie Yang will pursue a PhD at Stanford in the fall.

April 25, 2024

When engineers design hardware that uses light to transmit and process data, small tweaks to the system can have outsized impacts.

Jackie Yang, a senior in electrical engineering at Columbia Engineering, spent the summer developing a new approach to simulating these systems using software.

She conducted this research under the supervision of CUbiC Director Keren Bergman, Charles Batchelor Professor of Electrical Engineering at Columbia and faculty director of the Columbia Nano Initiative. CUbiC, short for the the Center for Ubiquitous Connectivity, brings together researchers from 15 institutions to advance the wireless and photonics technologies necessary to delive seamless seamless and energy-efficient Edge-to-Cloud connectivity.

“We started with complex systems and modeled their component pieces as matrices,” Yang explained. “When we put those matrices together to simulate the complex systems, it was easier to change the parameters or redesign the system architecture than it would’ve been with existing methods.” The improvements enabled by this technology will allow engineers to design high-performance photonic components for supercomputers, data centers, and other vital electronic communication systems more efficiently than before.

Yang, an Egleston scholar who’s originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, says she’s especially grateful for Bergman’s mentorship.

“I think she's unique in being so supportive of undergrads,” Yang said. “I met her during my sophomore year. Since then, she's been a really big inspiration and shown me how exciting research can be.”

An accomplished cellist who’s performed at Carnegie Hall several times, Yang says she chose Columbia because of its diverse students and programs. “I was drawn to Columbia because of the opportunity to do different things. I could study engineering and the humanities,” she said. “One thing that's really unique about Columbia is the ability to meet a lot of different kinds of people, even though you may be specializing in different fields.”

After graduating in the spring, Yang will return to California to do a PhD in electrical engineering at Stanford. She intends to pursue a career in computational imaging or photonics.