Yves works at the intersection between theory and practice in modern telecommunications.
A Bell Labs director, who architects and designs high-speed electronics, Yves’s passion is to transform research into solutions he can implement. That’s important, because with escalating demand for higher data rates, Yves’ team is being challenged to build high-performance integrated circuits capable of handling unprecedented data speeds.
“It’s fun to face a challenge and try and solve it,” Yves says. His love of problem solving, especially in math, began in high school in his native Belgium. His passion for solutions eventually led to a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven. A few years later in 1988, Yves eagerly accepted an offer from Bell Labs.
“I like the fact that most of my time is spent in the trenches with everyone else - Bell Labs lets me do this.”
Like many new employees at Bell Labs, Yves began as an MTS ― a member of the technical staff. He has since become Director of the High-Speed Electronics and Opto-Electronics Research Department. Even in his management role, Yves remains close to his passion—research. “I like the fact that most of my time is spent in the trenches with everyone else,” says Yves. “Bell Labs lets me do this.”
High-performance integrated circuits
One of the big challenges that Yves and his team face is how to handle the blistering speeds of signals at network conversion points. Electrical signals need to become optical at the edge of the network before they reach antennas or fiber. At speeds of 100 Gbs, signal conversion points can easily become choke points.
There’s also the challenge of fabrication. Chip components have multiplied while at the same time they have become much more complex. As a result, fabrication of prototypes has become increasingly expensive. Yves notes that he and his team feel the pressure to get the integrated circuit design first-time right. Redesigning a chip that doesn’t pass testing can delay a project up to six months and escalate costs significantly.
“Designing new systems and architectures is important, but at the end of the day it all comes down to implementation” – being able to create integrated circuits that speed up networks and get the job done.
Designing and testing high-performance integrated circuits is a complex process that demands multidisciplinary input., To get the job done, Yves reaches out to his colleagues at Bell Labs ― the world’s best and brightest – for their expertise in electromagnetism, optics, and other related fields. He especially enjoys being able to engage in fundamental research though some of his research naturally centers on commercialization, too.
Yves says that his work at Bell Labs isn’t left at the office at the end of the day. “If you’re naturally curious ― the mark of a good researcher ― you think about your challenges in the lab all the time.” Even so, work-life balance is important for Yves so he spends considerable with his family. A former Masters swimmer, Yves encourages his five children in various sports, together with his wife who has a Ph.D. in physics. He also coaches middle-school girls in lego-robotics ― where students use microprocessors and lego to build and program robots to perform tasks on their own. You can bet these girls, like Yves, have experienced the thrill of design success.