The University of Ottawa honours two researchers for their early career accomplishments
Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2020
Professors Constance Crompton, director of the Humanities Data Lab at the Faculty of Arts and Ebrahim Karimi, head of the Structured Quantum Optics Group at the Faculty of Science, have received the University’s Early Career Researcher of the Year Awards.
“This award recognizes the innovative and original research of professors Constance Crompton and Ebrahim Karimi, at such an early stage of their careers,” said Sylvain Charbonneau, vice-president, research. “It is a strong testament to the outstanding contributions that these two talented professors have already made to the advancement of knowledge in their respective areas of expertise.”
The Early Career Researcher of the Year Award, granted by the Office of the Vice-President, Research, recognizes excellence in research and teaching in the social sciences and humanities, and in the pure and applied sciences. The award is accompanied by a $10,000 research grant.
Digital humanities: all about the future… and the past
The emerging field of digital humanities research arises from integrating and combining technological and computational tools with traditional methods of research in the humanities.
In the age of artificial intelligence, Constance Crompton, the Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities, builds on these new synergies to improve public access to reliable knowledge in the humanities and to bring new perspectives to humanities issues, some of which could not be addressed without computing.
“The humanities have a history of tackling complex questions that affect our societies, such as how to mitigate the impact of racism or xenophobia,” says Professor Crompton, director of the Humanities Data Lab at the Faculty of Arts. “They help us understand history and how to create change, so it is important to bring digital tools to humanities questions.”
Her team uses statistical analysis, algorithms, and graph databases to slice and recombine information, detect patterns, and visualize historical changes, social-cultural trends, and the evolution of ideas through time. For example, she brings her innovative research approach to the study of gay intellectual history and the gay liberation movement in Canada in a project with research partners Michelle Schwartz and Donald McLeod.
Her research goals, which are to improve public knowledge mobilization and access to the field of humanities, align with the purpose of her lab, which is a node in the Linked Infrastructure for Networked Cultural Scholarship (LINCS) project, a national linked data mobilization project that is based at the University Guelph and backed by the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
As the foundation of a smarter semantic web, LINCS linked data is designed to be readable by both humans and intelligent machines. According to Professor Crompton, this trusted source of linked humanities data “will give artificial intelligence and search engines a way to access the power of the humanities in Canada.”
The researcher also applies the digital humanities approach to knowledge-sharing in a number of other collaborative projects, including one on the past and future of reference work in the digital age, and another on a cultural map of Rijeka, Croatia, the European Capital of Culture for 2020.
Structured quantum light to deliver ultra-secure communications
A leading international expert on structured quantum waves, physics professor Ebrahim Karimi explores how electrons and photons, the tiniest particles of light, can be shaped to carry desired quantum wavelike properties, with a view to developing novel technologies and techniques. “Together with my team, the Structured Quantum Optics Group,” he explains, “we are passionate about exploring and studying these exciting physics problems in my state-of-the-art lab at the University of Ottawa.”
Ebrahim Karimi, the Canada Research Chair in Structured Light, and his team investigate cutting-edge ways of using light beams to perform novel quantum cryptography protocols, for example. By using structured photons, these protocols can tolerate a higher level of noise and transmit more information than conventionally possible. These protocols ensure that even quantum computer attacks could not succeed in decoding encrypted information.
Professor Karimi’s group earned international recognition when they performed the first free-space, high-dimensional, quantum cryptography experiments with structured photons above the City of Ottawa and through the Ottawa River. This was a world premiere for a promising approach to delivering ultra-secure information, one with multiple applications, including the transmission of highly sensitive government communications. This success clearly illustrated this researcher’s motto: to do great science while contributing to future technological advances.
Karimi’s research achievements in the fields of photonics and electron beams include the development of customizable devices that are now widely used to shape structured light and matter beams. The researcher also focuses on developing novel imaging techniques, with unrivalled spatial and temporal definition, to detect the dynamics of biological cells at the quantum level.
His many publications in both prestigious scientific journals and the mainstream media reflect Ebrahim Karimi’s leadership in the field and his ability to reach audiences beyond his own scientific community.