Born in 1957 in Thiruvala, India, Sajeev John came to Canada as a child. He grew up in London, Ontario, then moved to study physics at MIT and Harvard University in the USA. He received post-doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania. During his stay in the United States, he served at Exxon Research and Engineering Laboratories, Princeton University and Bell Communications Research Laboratories. In 1989, he joined the University of Toronto where he became Professor of Physics and a Principal Investigator for Photonics Research Ontario.
Professor John’s main research involves three areas: light localization and photonic bands, high temperature superconductivity and multiple light scattering spectroscopy. He played a major role in the discovery and elucidation of the fundamental principles of photonic band gap materials and was the driving force behind research which involves the processing of information by optical means. Photonic gap materials are dielectric materials capable of trapping light, thus providing photonic analogs of semiconductors. This new technology could lead to the development of optical microchips where light instead of electricity moves through tiny circuits. If this technology can be mass produced, it will be a major technological advance since information will be processed at the speed of light, allowing smaller and faster communication devices to be built. John’s other research interests include medical imaging and high-temperature superconductivity. He is also developing a microscopic theory of the superconducting phase of high temperature cuprate superconductors. If successful, it could lead to the fabrication of superconducting materials that operate at room temperature.
In addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Science, Professor John received the Herzberg Medal for Physics, Brockhouse Medal for Condense Matter and Materials Physics, Steacie Prize, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Prize for Science, Humboldt Senior Scientist Award, Brockhouse Prize, Canada Platinum Medal for Science and Medicine and McLean, Killman, Guggenheim and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowships and the Humboldt Senior Scientist Award (Germany). In 2007, he was awarded the C. V. Raman Chair Professorship of the Government of India. In 2008, he won the IEEE Nanotechnology Pioneer Award. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and a Member of the Max Planck Society of Germany.
Professor John, has been awarded the prize,of his method for the processing and transmission of information by optical means. His ideas were implemented by several experimental groups around the world. If this development comes to full fruition, it is hoped that the use of electrons, in transmitting messages within telecommunications devices and computers, can be replaced by the use of light. This would lead to faster, cheaper, and more versatile tools. The whole industry of computers and telecommunications would be profoundly transformed.