Quirks & Quarks

Trapping light earns physicist Sajeev John Canada's most prestigious science prize

University of Toronto physicist Sajeev John won Canada's top science price for 2021: the $1-million Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal.

NSERC's Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal comes with $1 million in funding

Physicist Sajeev John received the Herzberg gold medal for his groundbreaking research in trapping light. (Sylvie Li/Shoot Studio)

Sajeev John from the University of Toronto is this year's winner of Canada's most prestigious scientific award — the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal.

The award, bestowed annually by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), recognizes sustained excellence and overall influence of his research.

Previously, John has won the order of Canada, Germany's Humboldt Prize and Saudi Arabia's King Faisal science prize. 

These accolades come for his groundbreaking invention of photonic crystals, which allow light waves to be slowed down, contained and microscopically controlled. This technology can be used in everything from optical telecommunications devices to lasers that zap tumours to John's latest interest, new kinds of solar power cells.

This light trapping technology was part of his PhD research the '80s, and subsequently he has become one of the most frequently cited researchers in the world, inspiring an entirely new field of research. 

John is a theoretical physicist and Canada Research Chair in Optical Sciences at the University of Toronto. You can listen to his full conversation with Bob McDonald at the link above.

Produced by Amanda Buckiewicz