Aitchison, J. Stewart




Contact Information
Phone: (416) 946-7349
Office: GB 434


Professor J. Stewart Aitchison received a BSc (with first class honours) and a PhD from the Department of Physics, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, U.K., in 1984 and 1987 respectively. His PhD dissertation research was on optical bistability in semiconductor waveguides. From 1988 to 1990 he was a Postdoctoral Member of Technical Staff at Bellcore, Red Bank, N. J. His research interests were in high nonlinearity glasses and spatial optical solitons. He joined the Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, University of Glasgow in 1990 and was promoted to a personal chair as Professor of Photonics in 1999. His research focused on the use of the half band gap nonlinearity of semiconductors for the realization of all-optical switching devices and the study of spatial soliton effects. He also worked on the development of quasi phase matching techniques in semiconductors, monolithic integration, optical rectification, and planar silica technology. His research group developed novel optical biosensors, waveguide lasers and photosensitive direct writing processes based around the use of Flame Hydrolysis Deposited (FHD) silica. In 1996 he was the holder of a Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Fellowship and carried out research on spatial solitons as a visiting researcher at the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL), University of Central Florida. In 1998 four patents based on his research on planar silica were licensed to the start-up company Kymata.

Since 2001 Professor Aitchison has held the Nortel chair in Emerging Technology, in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the development of micro and nano-scale devices for optical signal processing and sensing applications. From 2004 – 2007 he was the Director (and from 2010 – 2011 the interim director) of the Emerging Communications Technology Institute at the University of Toronto, where he established an open access micro and nano-fabrication facility.

In 2009 he co-founded ChipCare Corporation with James Dou and Rakesh Nayyar. Chipcare is currently developing a portable HIV monitoring system, which will enhance healthcare delivery in remote communities. This project won the University of Toronto inventor of the year award in 2012, was profiled in the 2011 Better World Report and won the Canada business magazine Innovation Award in 2010.

As Vice Dean, Research, for the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto (2007 – 2012), Professor Aitchison provided strategic leadership to advance the Faculty’s research mission as one of the world’s leading engineering schools. He oversaw the Faculty’s research enterprise, fostered synergy between research, education and practice, developed multi-disciplinary collaborations, and facilitated partnerships between faculty members, industry, research organizations, federal and provincial governments and international institutions.

Since 2013 Professor Aitchison has been the University of Toronto Associate Scientific Director for the Network Centre of Excellence, IC-IMPACTS. IC-IMPACTS is the first international NCE and supports research, training, and knowledge transfer projects between Canada and India. The network focuses on building health communities by supporting projects on sustainable infrastructure, clean water technologies and technologies for public health.


  • Wallace Prize for the Most Distinguished Physics Graduate, Heriot-Watt University (1984)
  • Fellow of the Institute of Physics London (2001)
  • Fellow of the Optical Society of America (2005)
  • NSERC Synergy Award for the Agile All-Photonic Network (2006)
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – FAAAS (2010)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada FRSC (2010)
  • Professional Engineer Ontario (2010)
  • Canadian Business Magazine Innovations Award (2010)
  • University of Toronto Inventor of the Year Award (2012)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2014)
  • IEEE Photonics Society Distinguished Lecturer (2016-2017)
  • Professional Engineering Ontario Research and Development Medal (2016)
  • Fellow of Massey College (2017)