Services for entreprises Quartier Saint-Roch, Québec - Crédit: André Chamorel

Key sectors

Applied technologies

Shaping the future: researcher profiles

Michel Piché’s ultra-high precision
“I became interested in physics because I knew that important things were going to happen,” says Michel Piché, an internationally recognized optics and photonics researcher based in Quebec City.
  • Bachelor of physics, University of Ottawa (1975)
  • Master’s/PhD in physics, Laval University (1978/1980)
  • Post-doctoral training at INRS-Energie, Varennes, France (1980-1982)
  • Scientific director, Canadian Institute for Photonic Innovations (2001-2002); assistant director since 2004
  • Director, laser applications laboratory, Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers (COPL), Laval University
  • Research areas: ultra-brief pulses; non-linear lasers; laser dynamics; ultra-high-resolution medical imaging; laser-based electron acceleration; micromachining; Bessel beams

Not only did Dr. Piché’s prediction come true, but as a professor in Laval University’s Department of Physics, Physical Engineering and Optics, he continues to help build Canada’s reputation for excellence in the field of ultra-rapid laser applications.

Dr. Piché’s activities primarily focus on sources of femtosecond impulses, which are used to improve operative, micromachining and telecommunications techniques. As an indication of their important role, femtosecond lasers are currently the recommended technique for myopia surgery.

Working closely with Quebec City-based multinational Exfo, Dr. Piché’s team developed the first femtosecond laser marketed in Canada, paving the way for applications in the medical, dental and telecommunications sectors. In 2003, this breakthrough was officially recognized by the Canadian Institute for Phototonic Innovations (CIPI).

Keeping pace with laser technology

To give you an idea of the ultra-precision nature of this technology, a femtosecond is to a second as a second is to 31 million years! Forming a highly specialized field of interest, femtosecond lasers generate pulses that can be focused on a target smaller than the head of a pin.

As Dr. Piché sees it, he still has a debt to repay: “Five years ago, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. It just about killed me. We all know that some medical treatments are laser-based. Even if my research areas are not directly involved, if they can play some kind of role in the fight against cancer, I’ll be very happy. I’ve had my brush with death and I’d love to help out my colleagues in this regard.”

Experienced professor and mentor

Dr. Piché has received recognition for his close collaboration with industry stakeholders, in addition to gaining considerable credibility as a laser science and technology professor at Laval University’s Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers (COPL). “I’ve directed or co-directed research for 40 master’s students and 30 PhD candidates. Most of them now hold important positions with various high-tech companies. Some have even founded their own optics or photonics companies.”

In addition to authoring some 100 articles in specialized reviews and an equal number of scientific conference papers, Dr. Piché has taught a specialized laser course to more than 400 students since 1988. His teaching skills have been honoured on a number of occasions, including as star professor in the Faculty of Science and Engineering for a three-year period. He also received the Laval University Student Association’s Meritas Award for his work within the physical engineering program.

“I’m still in touch with several students who call me up whenever they have to make a decision concerning laser systems,” says Dr. Piché, who has taught at Laval University since 1984.

Rapid expansion

On the strength of its 27 faculty members, 9 researchers, 85 PhD candidates and 54 master’s students, COPL fully deserves its ranking as Canada’s leading optics and photonics university research centre.

Laval University is thus the ideal location for CIPI’s headquarters. Dr. Piché also serves as the centre of excellence’s assistant scientific director, overseeing 15 research projects involving 90 researchers and 300 graduate students at 20 universities, in partnership with the public and private sectors.

Dr. Piché and other leading researchers in Quebec City intend to keep on exploring the limitless depths of the optics and photonics field. Combining aspects of medicine, physics, chemistry, biology and electrical and physical engineering, the field offers a wide range of job opportunities in the areas of R&D;, teaching, health sciences, administration, consulting, sales and marketing.

Dr. Piché’s abiding fascination for optics is helping him to unlock the full potential of his chosen field. “Much of the information processed by our brains comes from optics. There’s no need to look it up: of our five senses, the sense of sight provides the most information.”

Download to print

Our partners

PÔLE Québec Chaudière-Appalaches

1175, Lavigerie avenue, suite 300, Quebec (Quebec), G1V 4P1
Telephone : 418-681-9700 Fax : 418-681-1535

Policies of confidentiality and refunding (in french)