Researchers Xiaoyi Bao and Robert Boyd recognized for pioneering work in photonics

Research and innovation
Awards and recognition
Faculty of Science
Close-up of colourful optical fibres
Modern photonics beamed onto the scene with the invention of the laser in 1960, and has continued to make tremendous strides ever since. Today, the spotlight shines bright on two University of Ottawa researchers who have each received a prestigious Optica award for their glowing contributions to the science of light.

Optica (Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide) is a society dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving and dissemination of knowledge in optics and photonics.

“The University of Ottawa is recognized as a world leader in photonics, and that’s in large part thanks to brilliant researchers like Professors Xiaoyi Bao and Robert Boyd, whose work has broken ground time and time again,” says Sylvain Charbonneau, vice-president, research and innovation. “Our commitment to offering a highly creative multidisciplinary environment for optics and photonics research and innovation is a source of great pride for the University, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.”

Professor Xiaoyi Bao working with cables in a lab

Xiaoyi Bao

Professor Xiaoyi Bao of the Faculty of Science has won Optica’s 2023 Joseph Fraunhofer Award / Robert M. Burley Prize for her research in optical engineering.

Bao’s trailblazing work in optical fibre-based systems has helped upgrade the world’s telecom testing protocols and instruments, improved infrastructure monitoring capabilities and advanced medical imaging technologies. Her research over the last three decades has had a lasting impact in areas such as health, security and quality of life.

“I’ve always striven to understand how things happen the way they do, what are the rules that govern systems and why there are limits,” says Bao. “What motivates me is finding solutions to real world problems by pushing the boundaries of what was previously thought impossible, using physics principles.”

Bao, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Fibre Optics and Photonics, is the third woman to take home the award since its creation in 1982.

“It is a great honour for me,” she says. “I am most grateful for the support of my fantastic collaborators, colleagues, nominators and references, and my current and former group members — the brilliant students and postdocs. Their many contributions are acknowledged by this award.”

Professor Robert Boyd with his students in a photonics lab

Robert Boyd

Professor Robert Boyd of the Department of Physics is the recipient of Optica’s 2023 Frederic Ives Medal / Jarus W. Quinn Prize. It is the highest award of the society, recognizing overall distinction in optics.

Boyd, the Canada Research Chair in Quantum Nonlinear Optics, is a master in his field. His seminal contributions to nonlinear optics, nanophotonics and quantum photonics have resulted in countless ground-breaking discoveries and innovations.

“I feel extremely honoured and humbled to have been given a place amongst the previous winners,” says Boyd. “My achievements would not have been possible without the contributions of my students and colleagues from around the world. In a very real sense, this is an award for the entire Boyd research group.”

Over the course of his career, Boyd has developed methods for quantum imaging and for controlling the velocity of light, and has furthered our understanding of nonlinear optical interaction through his important pedagogical work with students, postdocs and researchers from around the globe.

“Despite the large body of knowledge that the optics and photonics communities have amassed so far, there are still more scientific questions to answer and engineering challenges to tackle,” he says. “My curiosity has not been quenched and I will throw myself into these new scientific endeavours just as I always have.”