He’s been in Canada for a little less than a year—but Younès Messaddeq, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Enabling Photonic Innovations for Information and Communication at Université Laval, has hit the ground running.
Working out of the Université Laval’s Centre d'Optique, Photonique et Laser (COPL), Messaddeq and his team are developing new glass materials and glass ceramics that are pushing the boundaries of current fibre optic research.
“Research into fibre optics has had a dramatic effect on how we communicate and share information,” he says. “What we are trying to do is improve, adapt and tailor the properties of these fibres and explore the vista of possibilities for their use.”
It is not just in information and communications technology that Messaddeq is breaking new ground. His research has applications in fields as far apart as neurosurgery, agriculture, dentistry and green energy.
“One of our newest applications is based on bacterial cellulose materials that can be used to treat second-degree burns and diabetic wounds,” he says. “But we are also developing a fibre that can be used during brain surgery to treat hand tremors in patients with Parkinson’s.”
To a lay person, bacterial cellulose and photonics research have little in common. So how does Messaddeq bring together the diverse strands of his research? “I often say that a researcher is a dreamer,” he says. “A researcher dreams of new challenges and new frontiers. Once you stop dreaming, you close your mind.”
As one of the world’s leading minds, and most innovative researchers, Messaddeq‘s research is attracting a great deal of attention from industry. So far this year, companies from the United Kingdom, China, Brazil and the United States have approached him with propositions for partnership.
For Messaddeq, however, his main responsibility is to Canadians. “The federal government has been very generous in its funding,” he says. “We have additional funds from Quebec and the university too. So we can pick and choose the partners we work with.”
“I tell my team to never forget we are working with public money. The bottom line is simple. We are working for the Canadian taxpayers; we have to make sure that our research benefits Canada.”