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Professor Roberto Morandotti receives the Prix du Québec Marie-Victorin

November 2, 2022 | Sophie Laberge

Update : November 2, 2022

The INRS physicist is the recipient of one of the Government of Quebec’s highest distinctions in science.

Professor Roberto Morandotti receives the Prix du Québec Marie-Victorin 2022. Photo: Simon Desbiens

Professor and researcher at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Roberto Morandotti has received the Marie-Victorin Award from the 2022 Prix du Québec. This award has been recognizing outstanding research careers in the natural sciences (except the biomedical field) and engineering for 45 years.

“Over the course of my career, I have been fortunate to meet and collaborate with fantastic students and postdoctoral fellows, outstanding mentors, and remarkable colleagues and support staff at all levels. The main lesson I have learned is that, in science as in life, it is often more important to ask the right question, rather than to seek a generic or unhelpful answer.”

Roberto Morandotti

His phenomenal career is marked by outstanding contributions in nonlinear optics and his work has significant ramifications. His fields of expertise are numerous: telecommunications, quantum computing, spectroscopy (optical and THz), and artificial intelligence.

“Mr. Morandotti is a formidable scientist and has a great impact in his field. He contributes massively to INRS’s research capacity and outreach. Through his work in photonics, he is positioning Quebec as a world leader in the field.”

Luc-Alain Giraldeau, INRS Chief Executive Officer

Taking research to the next level

Soon after arriving at the INRS Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre in 2003, Roberto Morandotti set up a world-class research program. Its constantly innovative work helps further knowledge in the field. The prominent researcher even has more than 20 patent applications under his belt.

Professor Morandotti is a pioneer in nonlinear, quantum, and terahertz (THz) optics—three distinct areas of research that describe the behaviour of light. His ability to pave the way for innovative ideas has often revolutionized the field and its technological applications.

Professor Morandotti is frequently cited throughout the world, as his work has concrete applications in the field of applied physics. As a matter of fact, he is one of the most cited scientists at INRS and in the Université du Québec network.

Magazine cover Nature Photonics

Professor Morandotti has published over 289 articles in scientific journals, including numerous peer-reviewed publications in prestigious journals like Science, Nature, Nature Photonics, Nature Physics, and Physical Review Letters. He is featured in one of Optics & Photonics News’ “Optics of the Year” special issues. His work on integrated quantum microcombs was also featured on the cover of the 2019 special issue of Nature Photonics.

Magazine cover Québec Science Roberto Morandotti

Far from being confined to scholarly publications, his research is recognized by the mainstream media in Quebec and around the world. His groundbreaking achievements have been popularized by Québec Science magazine’s “10 discoveries of the year,” Le Monde, the BBC, the Daily Mirror, and the Discovery Channel, to name but a few. 

Far-reaching, well-established reputation

Roberto Morandotti holds the Canada Research Chair in Smart Photonics, is the scientific leader of the Ultrahigh Speed Light Manipulation Laboratory, and is a member of the joint implementation committee of the INRS-UQO Joint Research Unit in Cybersecurity. He is known for his extensive scientific involvement, both in Quebec and on the international scene.

The professor is involved in several international initiatives, with experts from the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom, among others. For these contributions, he has been recognized as a fellow by several scholar societies, including the Royal Society of Canada, the American Physical Society (APS), the Optical Society (OSA), the Institute of Physics London (IOP), the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE).

He was awarded the very prestigious E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Scholarship in 2011, the Synergy Award for Innovation in 2019 for outstanding collaboration with industry, and, with fellow INRS professor José Azaña, the Brockhouse Award for Interdisciplinary Research in 2020, all from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Roberto Morandotti is the only scientist in the history of Canada to have received these high honours simultaneously.

“His collaborations with scientists extend far beyond our walls. He is a very productive—but above all very innovative—researcher. In fact, his students frequently stand out both nationally and internationally.”

Marc A. Gauthier, acting director of the Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre

Training: more than a vocation, a mission

Despite all the awards he has received, Professor Roberto Morandotti’s greatest pride comes from training. Over the years, more than 165 students and postdoctoral fellows have passed through his laboratory, some 20 of whom are now professors everywhere from Quebec and Canada to the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, and France. Many of them now hold prestigious research chairs of their own and are recognized by their peers.

For Professor Morandotti, training is intrinsically linked to a research environment where equity, diversity, and inclusion are key. In his laboratory, collaboration and creativity are at the forefront. As a result, several of the women who were part of his team now hold leading academic positions in research and training institutions.

“Diversity within my team allows us to showcase excellence in research, but also support the values of tomorrow’s science, as one.”

Roberto Morandotti

Giving wings to the next generation

The past and present members of Professor Morandotti’s team are particularly well known; in his laboratory, the prestigious Banting, Vanier, and Marie-Curie grants, as well as grants from the Fonds de recherche du Québec and Mitacs, are not uncommon. Among Professor Morandotti’s graduates are recipients Piotr Roztocki, the first Canadian student to win the Marconi Society’s prestigious Paul Baran 2020 Young Scholar Award, and Christian Reimer, a recipient namely of the Marie Curie grant, awarded by the European Union to the world’s best postdoctoral researchers.

Postdoctoral researcher Stefania Sciara is another success story. In 2021, she received the Executive Chief Office’s Award of Excellence and the prestigious Governor General’s Gold Academic Medal for her Ph.D. Now a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Morandotti’s team, she benefits from a significant Mitacs grant. Benjamin MacLellan, now a doctoral student at the University of Waterloo, was awarded the INRS Executive Chief Office’s Award in 2022.

Roberto Morandotti is aware of the benefits that personalized coaching, tailored to different personalities, can offer up-and-coming researchers. Networking opportunities and contact with industry and scientists on the international scene can be another tool for success.

Researcher, professor, and mentor who exemplifies the fundamental values of science: this is how we would describe the 2022 winner of the Marie-Victorin Award.

Congratulations, Professor Morandotti!

Roberto Morandotti is the second INRS researcher to receive this award, following Federico Rosei in 2021. He joins several prominent Quebec scientists to receive a Marie-Victorin Award, including Ashok K. Vijh (in 1998), also recipient of an honorary doctorate from INRS in 2012, and Armand Frappier (in 1979), founder of the Montreal Institute of Microbiology and Hygiene, now the INRS’s Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie Research Centre.

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