University of Victoria
- PhD in Physics, Cambridge (UK), 2003
- Master of Applied Science, University of Toronto (Canada) 1999
- Bachelor of Applied Science, University of Toronto (Canada) 1997
Gordon’s focus is on research in nanostructured metals for enhanced light matter scale at the nano and sub-nanometer scales.
Advice to Students:
I recommend that they read “What is Life?”, the lecture series by Schroedinger.
In which technical fields within Nanotechnology does your work apply best?
- Nanosensors and Nanoactuators
- Modeling and Simulation
- Nano-Optics, Nano-Photonics, and Nano-Optoelectronics
- Nano Energy, Environment and Safety
- Nano-acoustic Devices, Processes and Materials
Q: When did you first find that your career path focused on nanotechnology?
Gordon: When I was a graduate student, I read the work of Ebbesen and co-workers on “extraordinary optical transmission” and I wanted to work in that area because it was exciting that it was possible to break conventional diffraction limits and this seemed like a great opportunity for new discovery. I started working on this as soon as I got my first independent position in 2002. Prior to that, I was in a group that did a lot of nanotechnology research (although I was working on laser research), so that help tune my thinking towards nanotech.
Q: What current nanotechnology applications are you working on?
Gordon: Presently, I am working on optical tweezers that can hold onto single proteins and analyze their vibrational modes and their interactions with other nanoscale objects, like DNA, drug molecules, and other proteins. We are also interested in other applications that use nanostructured materials, like single photon sources, solar energy technologies, THz technologies.
Q: What’s the most rewarding thing about working with nanotechnology?
Gordon: Being able to interact with the nanoscale world is rewarding. It is a type of exploration – like visiting a new place that was always right in front of us, but we couldn’t really get to it before. Being able to hold onto just a single protein and see how it binds to a molecule, or how it binds to DNA, is exciting. Before we could see this at the scale of many, but now we can see just a single protein – that to me seems like arriving at a new world.
Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you’ve worked on has positively impacted the world?
Gordon: I have had many interactions with several big and small companies that enhanced their technologies; however, I believe that the optical tweezer work will ultimately have a greater positive impact in the years to come. It will take a few years to fully develop, but many groups around the world have started working on it, so I think the impact will be felt soon.
Q: In which areas do you anticipate future commercialization of nanotechnology having the greatest positive impact on the world?
Gordon: I think bio-nano is an important area because protein function is intrinsically nanoscale. Proteins are nanoscale machines that are responsible for all living functions. The ability to interact with these directly will, I believe, result in the greatest near-term impact.
Q: What do you think is the single greatest impact nanotechnology has had on the world thus far?
Gordon: This is a tough question. The scaling up of computational resources has transformed our world, and nanotechnology has made that possible. However, I think the impacts in the area of biology, from the structure of DNA from x-ray patterns, to the recent advances in CRISPR, are all examples where people are making use of nanotechnology to have a great impact on the world, and maybe don’t even recognize it.
Q: Over the past decade, nanotechnology has moved out of the lab and is making a real impact in society. Have you worked on any efforts that helped to commercialize nanotechnology and resulted in new products or processes?
Gordon: I have worked on the development of fiber pump lasers with quantum wells (w/ Nortel), microcavity pulsed lasers (w/ Hitachi), protein trapping techniques for drug discovery (w/ Vertex Pharmaceuticals), surface enhanced Raman for early detection of cancers (w/ Biomark Diagnostics) and THz sources (internal venture). Most of these have associated patents and there has been some technology development in these areas from my research.
Q: Did your university training help you in your nanotechnology work?
Gordon: Yes. I was very fortunate to work at the Microelectronics Research Centre in Cambridge, and in Jimmy Xu’s lab when he was at U. Toronto.
Q: Do you have a mentor? Did you in your college years?
Gordon: Jimmy Xu was my first research supervisor – he really showed me the creative side of nanotechnology. Many researchers in nanotechnology have influenced my research, but mainly through their research and not through direct interactions.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still focus on nanotechnology applications?
Q: If a high school or college student was interested in nanotechnology, what advice would you give them to help prepare take on those roles?
Gordon: I would recommend that they read “What is Life?”, the lecture series by Schroedinger. It is a short and pretty easy read. It contains the type of deep thinking that has led to transformations in this area. It contains many of the main ideas about energy and size scales that make nanotechnology so relevant to biology.