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Joyce Poon
Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics, Germany

Awards & Distinctions

Joyce Poon is a Director of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, and an Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Technical University of Berlin. She and her team specialize in integrated photonics on silicon. 

Poon never expected to be where she is today.  She was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Toronto and had wished to become a medical doctor. Her plans were derailed during her undergraduate studies in Engineering Science at the University of Toronto after a summer in a laser lab.  She found building a femtosecond laser to be so interesting that she switched into the physics specialization. A device course and a project on photonic crystals opened her mind to integrated photonics, a field she is still passionate about today. In photonics, she could see how theory, models and experiments can come together to create impactful technologies that transform society. 

Poon continued onto graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology, where she was often asked whether she was Amnon Yariv’s last student (she is not!). There she founded the OSA Student Chapter, hoping to bring students together and learn from guest speakers.  She earned her Ph.D. from Caltech in 2007 with a thesis on slow light in coupled-resonator optical waveguides.  Her sojourn at Caltech taught her about being precise in thought and expression and the importance of integrity.

Poon subsequently returned to the University of Toronto to be a professor.  She is grateful for the tremendous support from the university, the Canadian research environment and the many colleagues and collaborators for her career. She built a research program centered on silicon-integrated photonics for telecom applications.  With talented students and postdocs, she collaborated with the silicon photonic foundries and companies to demonstrate different types of platforms and device concepts.  Poon was the Canada Research Chair from 2012 to 2018 and has received awards for teaching and research from the university and other organizations. 

A few years ago, Poon miraculously survived the appointment process to serve as a director at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics, a position that she started in 2018 along with German lessons. At the MPI, she is building a department on “Nanophotonics, Integration and Neural Technology,” with the aim of inventing and developing the next generation of integrated photonic technologies for brain-computer interfaces and future computing. 

She currently serves as an Associate Editor for Optics Express. She has regularly served on the technical program committees for OFC, CLEO, FiO and various conferences since 2009.  Poon is an Optika Fellow.  She thinks learning German is harder than probing the brain with light.


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