Mike Serbinis headshot

Michael Serbinis

Chair of the Board of Directors

A year of ideas and impact

It’s been a tremendous year of revolutionary advances in our understanding of the universe, all the way to innovations that change our everyday lives. Significant progress in AI has driven keen interest in quantum physics and next-generation computing technologies.

This year, the Government of Canada made a monumental announcement about the creation of a National Quantum Strategy. François-Philippe Champagne, the Federal Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, chose Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics as the backdrop for the announcement — a natural choice to share the goals of the strategy.

The feds’ plan builds on Canada’s existing strengths in quantum research; fostering new quantum technologies, companies, and talent, and solidifying Canada’s global leadership in this technology subsector — all worthy objectives, and all areas where Perimeter is already leading the way.

Perimeter’s place as ground zero for a national quantum strategy reflects Mike Lazaridis’ original vision for the Institute he founded. Mike wanted to prepare Canada to lead the next mega-wave of discovery and technological innovation, and have it be rooted in theoretical physics, like the multi-generational wave in computing started by the discovery of the transistor in 1947 at Bell Labs.

I believe now more than ever, we can create the next mega-wave. This means enticing talented scientists from around the world to make this city, province, and country their home. And it means connecting Perimeter’s research to innovators and collaborators who will develop world-changing applications.

Then and now, Perimeter has aspired to create discoveries that ripple out across the country, changing lives and helping Canada compete on the world stage. In quantum research and many other areas, Perimeter has experienced a year of major accomplishments.

I want to congratulate the Institute’s Director, Robert Myers, on receiving the 2023 Canadian Association of Physicists Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics. His pioneering work in quantum field theory and quantum gravity sets the research agenda for scientists and innovators around the world. His leadership inspires senior researchers and new students alike.

Some of those new students are part of the Perimeter Scholars International (or “PSI”) Bridge program, which allows people from non-science backgrounds to acquire the skills and knowledge to embark on a physics graduate program.

Why is this flexible type of program so important? Because nobody knows where the next great idea in theoretical physics will come from. After all, Albert Einstein was once a patent clerk who went on to form the most foundational ideas in physics. The open, collaborative, and entrepreneurial nature of Perimeter has long been a wellspring of surprising ideas and unexpected discoveries.

We continually push ourselves to cast a wider net and challenge preconceptions about who belongs at our Institute. I take great pride in Perimeter’s equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives, bringing more people from more walks of life to physics. This year, for example, we named our second BMO Inclusive Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow. The fellowship provides an additional year of funding to a postdoctoral researcher who demonstrates excellence in research and who has an outstanding track record of fostering an inclusive environment.

I am delighted, too, that Yasemin Sezer, a seasoned technology executive, this year took on the role of Chair of our Emmy Noether Council, which works to increase the number of women in physics at every level of education and career seniority. Perimeter also welcomed two new Board members in 2022: Alan Nursall, the former President and CEO of the TELUS World of Science – Edmonton, and Hratch Panossian, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of CIBC.

Our founder, board of directors, and all the faculty, staff, donors, and volunteers in between share our understanding that great ideas in physics can come from anywhere. They can come from anyone. And they can go everywhere.

We don’t know who will drive the next big idea in theoretical physics, but we do know we want Perimeter to be that place where they can collaborate with the planet’s leading thinkers to drive breakthroughs in our fundamental understanding of the universe. And as those revolutionary ideas emerge, we – along with our partners in government and industry – will work to ensure all Canadians benefit from the results.

Michael Serbinis

Chair of the Board of Directors