A uOttawa researcher receives the prestigious Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship

Research and innovation
Faculty of Science
Awards and recognition

By University of Ottawa

Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, OVPRI

Ebrahim Karimi, professor at the University of Ottawa
Professor Ebrahim Karimi. Photo: Sylvie Li / Shoot Studio
In the era of quantum computers, one of the daunting challenges we now face is the significant security risk that quantum technology poses to current methods of information storage and transmission.

Ebrahim Karimi, a uOttawa professor at the Faculty of Science, is paving the way to a more secure communication and digital life in Canada by being at the forefront of the quantum race. Karimi, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Structured Quantum Waves, was recently awarded one of six Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Arthur B. McDonald Fellowships for his pioneering work in the field. 

“Professor Karimi is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in structured quantum wave generation and manipulation,” said Sylvain Charbonneau, vice-president, research and innovation. “His invaluable work aims to enhance our national security and bring practical, quantum-secure data transmission to real-life applications. The University is immensely proud that he has been awarded NSERC’s most prestigious prize for outstanding and highly promising researchers. Thanks to this award, our talented colleague will push the boundaries of knowledge in quantum waves and make an impact locally, nationally, and globally.” 

Karimi’s research is conducted at the smallest of scales: he explores how photons and electrons, which are the tiniest particles of light and electric charge, can be shaped to carry desired, quantum wave-like properties. Microscopy and ultra-secure communications, among other applications, have been at the top of his priority list in recent years. 

In 2017, Karimi and his team conducted an experiment on the uOttawa campus that captured the world’s attention: they established the first free-space, high-dimensional quantum communication link above the city of Ottawa and through the Ottawa River. This breakthrough has enormous potential for keeping sensitive information ultra-secure. Experts in the field of cybersecurity are paying close attention to the latest breakthroughs that Professor Karimi and his research group have made. 

Karimi and his team are now working on creating the first-ever extreme quantum microscope, which will allow them to explore the dynamics of physical phenomena on a nano scale, and eventually, to develop innovative devices. 

The University of Ottawa is recognized as a major research and innovation hub in quantum photonics and has recently taken quantum research to the next level by creating the Nexus for Quantum Technologies Institute (NexQT). The institute brings together quantum experts and leaders from around the world. It aims to advance quantum science; develop technologies adapted to society’s needs for security, privacy, equitable access, and economic prosperity; and support innovation and commercialization initiatives. Professor Ebrahim Karimi and Professor Elena Baranova are co-directors of NexQT. 

The Arthur B. McDonald fellowships recognize early-stage academic researchers in the natural sciences and engineering and supports them to enhance their research capacity, so that they can become leaders in their field and inspire others. NSERC awards up to six McDonald fellowships each year. The fellowships honour Arthur B. McDonald, an outstanding nuclear physicist and research leader who made major contributions to the development of science in Canada. 

Learn more about the Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship.