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Vivian Xi Chen

Nokia Bell Labs, USA
For remarkable contributions to ultrahigh-speed fiber-optic transmission systems for both short-reach and long-haul applications.
Vivian Xi Chen

Since the beginning of Vivian Xi Chen’s bachelor's degree, she has been interested in engineering and telecommunications, as she found working with and understanding physical systems and components very interesting. She comments, “I’m drawn to systems with multiple pieces, where I need to figure out how best to use each of them as well as searching for the optimal way of putting everything together. Like a puzzle.” Today, she works on the physical layer of telecommunications systems, developing high-speed optical transceivers. These transceivers enable faster, cheaper, and more power-efficient internet, possibilities that push Vivian to continue pursuing the field. She is excited about the future, saying, “We are entering an era where the transceivers will be made in a drastically different way than today’s. We are going to see a lot of innovations in various aspects, from subsystem design, material, signal processing, to packaging techniques.”

Optica has played an essential role in Vivian’s career since its early stages. She had just graduated with her PhD when she was asked to serve on the Technical Program Committee of an Optica meeting, Signal Processing in Photonics Communications (SPPCom). This was an influential moment for the young researcher, who felt grateful for the opportunity for two reasons. First, as a young professional, the community trusted she would do a good job in the position. Second, it was a realization that such a seemingly small gesture could have a meaningful impact on other young scientists. Today, she strives to identify other early career researchers she trusts and gives them opportunities like the one she had. Vivian also gave her first plenary talk at an Optica meeting, another milestone in her career. She shares, “I was thrilled to be given the opportunity, which helped in terms of growth and confidence. I feel that the Technical Committee and Optica trusted me before I trusted myself.”

When it comes to advice to younger scientists, Vivian mentions the importance of curiosity and open-mindedness. Vivian shares, “You always need to be ready that you may be wrong.” While researchers are most likely confident in their work, listening to those who disagree is essential. She emphasizes that it is important to take the time to listen, understand, and decide if the other side offers a convincing new perspective. Often, researchers may not be open to convincing, but it is important not to stop listening. Those rare cases where we realize we are wrong give us great insight, which moves our understanding to a new level.

When not working as a researcher in the field of engineering, Vivian explores art and design. She has been taking online courses from a design school. She spends a few hours per weekend learning art and design, focusing on home and commercial space design. “For a long time, my life has revolved around being an engineer/researcher, where I develop things based on data, facts, and logic. Art is fascinating because it is a very different type of creativity - ideas can be created from... nothing. Besides, interior design is another type of system that works like a puzzle – we need to understand each component (color, lighting, fabric, balance, etc.) and find out how to put things together optimally. I have a great amount of joy learning about it.”

Photo Credit: Vivian Xi Chen

Profile written by Samantha Hornback

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