30 November 2021 20:50

Indian-origin scientist awarded top science prize worth $1-million

Sanjeev's technique is now being used for non-invasive laser surgeries and the development of a thin solar cell "coating" for buildings, cars, and even clothing.

Prof. Sajeev John, a 64-year-old professor, and Canada Research Chair in Optical Sciences at the University of Toronto has been awarded Canada’s top science prize.

He was named this year’s recipient of the $1-million Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal.

This is the highest honour given out by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and is awarded annually for “sustained excellence” and “overall influence” of research conducted in Canada.

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NSERC said in a statement:

“Thanks to his discoveries, it may be possible to process information optically rather than electronically, enabling a supercomputing technology more stable and scalable than quantum computers.”

Prof. John has developed a way to confine and control light which is similar to the way electrons are controlled in electronics.

The technique is now being used for non-invasive laser surgeries and the development of a thin solar cell “coating” for buildings, cars, and even clothing.

Prof. John told CBC that the phone call from NSERC president Alejandro Adem, informing him he had won, took him by surprise.

“The Herzberg Canada Gold Medal will be very useful in attracting other aspiring young scientists to work on my team and be a part of this effort.

So quite a lot of it is going to be used to, you know, to bring in good PhD students, postdocs, visiting scientists — people that can work on the project.”

Indian High Commission in Canada tweeted its congratulatory message celebrating this win.

Professor Leah Cowen, University of Toronto’s associate vice-president of research, congratulating Prof. John said:

“From his ground-breaking work on confining and harnessing the flow of photons to his leadership in exploring applications for his research in optical micro-chips, optical communications and information processing, laser technologies, solar energy-harvesting and clinical medicine – his impact has been remarkable.”

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Prof. John was born in India and grew up in Ottawa. His current research focus is on climate change.

“The area that I’m most excited about right now is in using the concept of trapping light to trap light from the sun.” 

He is also an officer of the Order of Canada, a Canada Council Killam Prize for Natural Sciences, and a Citation Laureate celebrating “Nobel-class” scientists.

WATCH VIDEO: Sajeev John: Photonic crystals increase solar efficiency

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