David V. Plant has been a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University since 1993. He received his B.Sc., with honors, M.Sc., and Ph.D. from Brown University in 1985, 1986, and 1989, respectively. He was a Research Engineer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), before moving to McGill University in 1993.

Dr. Plant has a proven research track record that is based on scientific inquiry and engineering execution. He is also an accomplished leader who has created several large broadband communications research initiatives whose objectives are to deliver transformative results for the benefit of Canadians.

To date, he has received several national and international awards and he has been recognized with Fellow status in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Optical Society of America (OSA), the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE), and the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) for his efforts.


During his tenure at UCLA (1989-1993) Dr. Plant devised scientific methods for generating millimeter wave radiation using optical mixing and direct modulation of heterostructure based, monolithically integrated transistor and antenna circuits. This combination of a laser and a high-speed phototransistor represented a new, compact high frequency optoelectronic millimeter wave source.

In the area of high frequency device characterization, he measured both the S-parameters and the optical responses of heterostructure based diodes and transistors (HEMTs, HBTs) at frequencies beyond 150 GHz. This scientific contribution represented some of the highest operating frequencies reported to date for such devices. Finally, he measured both the optical and millimeter wave properties of high temperature superconducting thin films. These materials were of interest as low loss electrical transmission lines in optical communication systems.

McGill University

During his 19 year tenure at McGill (1993-present), Dr. Plant has excelled as a researcher who has applied scientific inquiry and engineering theory to solve complex communications problems.

Dr. Plant is a world leader in designing and demonstrating optical interconnects for application in large switching and multiprocessor computing systems. He is considered one of the top 10 leaders in the world in this field. His significant scientific and engineering contributions are two-fold: #1) he and his team built the two largest Optoelectronic-Very Large Scale Integrated (OE-VLSI) circuit devices reported to date; #2) he and his team demonstrated the highest density Free Space Optical Interconnect (FSOI) systems reported to date.

Dr. Plant has focused on optical interconnects that operate over distances of centimeters and meters and that target improvements in bandwidth, power consumption, miniaturization, and switching speed. Motivation for the work is based on the need to improve connectivity in electronic systems.

Governed by Moore’s law for the past four decades, on-chip clock speeds and bandwidths are significantly higher than off-chip equivalents resulting in interconnection bottlenecks between microprocessors and memory that are inherently low-bandwidth, low-latency, point-to-point connections. Furthermore, inter-chip and inter-board interconnect bandwidths are a factor of 10 to 100 times lower than intra-chip bandwidths, and typical on-chip compute powers versus the off-chip communications bandwidths differs by approximately five orders of magnitude.


Dr. Plant pioneered the scientific and engineering development of OE-VLSI circuit technology for application in optical interconnects. By integrating optical inputs and outputs onto the surface of VLSI devices, he achieved a means of optically communicating between devices. Using the OE-VLSI devices he invented, he demonstrated scientific and engineering innovation by showing that sourcing and terminating high bit rate optical signals on-chip alleviates the need to drive electrical lines at high rates over large distances.

An additional significant contribution was the development of intelligence at the optical interconnect layer. Using various generations of Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technology, Dr. Plant demonstrated original optical layer signal processing functions (e.g. bandwidth management, forward error correction) that improved system throughput and performance. Prior to his work, these approaches had not been explored.

Another major contribution was the optical interconnect systems developed by Dr. Plant. Optics is inherently high bandwidth and therefore ideally suited for chip and board based interconnection. Through the design of numerous generations of extremely high spatial density Free-Space Optical Interconnects (FSOIs) he demonstrated increases in bandwidth while decreasing volume and power consumption. In this area

Dr. Plant’s work stands out as the most successful demonstration of the use of optics for interconnection purposes. He amassed an excessively large body of highly original results and demonstrations. In combination, Dr. Plant’s contributions in the areas of OE-VLSI devices and FSOI show that this technology can deliver more bandwidth at lower power and volume than convention electronic counterparts.

In addition to many papers, Dr. Plant has authored two invited book chapters on these subjects, and he was elevated to IEEE Fellow, OSA Fellow, and CAE Fellow for this work.

Dispersion engineering

Dr. Plant recently explored dispersion engineering, defined in this context as the art of using frequency-dependent signal delays, to perform innovative signal processing operations. Dr. Plant and his team performed a mathematical analysis of various structures, and then through a series of experimental demonstrations showed the use of GHz-band dispersive structures for several applications: real-time spectral analysis, tunable true-time-delay lines, multi-frequency filters, and electronic temporal imaging.

Dr. Plant’s demonstration of temporal imaging, which is the time-domain expansion/compression/reversal of an analog waveform, used exclusively electronic means to temporally expand a given waveform whereas previous works required expensive and difficult optical sources and electro-optic converters. Dr. Plant received the 2009 IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society Microwave Prize for this work.

Bell Canada/NSERC Industrial Research Chair

In his capacity as a Bell Canada/NSERC Industrial Research Chair holder, Dr. Plant is currently exploring the science and engineering of broadband coherent fiber optic transmission systems. This research is motivated by the fact that the past decade has seen profound changes not only in the way we communicate using the Internet but also in our expectations of what the Internet will deliver. The Internet is connected by fiber optic transmission systems, once viewed as having unlimited capacity, currently supporting annual capacity growth rates of 50-60%. The exponentially growing demand created by human generated traffic (e.g. Facebook) and machine generated traffic (e.g. data centers, cloud computing) is pushing fiber optic networks to their fundamental capacity limits.

Dr. Plant has generated original scientific and engineering solutions that address the problem of capacity and bandwidth exhaust in coherent fiber optic transmission systems. For example, by using advanced modulation formats (e.g. QPSK, 16-QAM, OFDM) and pulse shaping techniques (Nyquist), he has demonstrated several methods for increasing system reach whilst managing transmission impairments. In addition, he and his team have developed several innovative digital signal processing techniques for use in coherent optical communications systems. Furthermore, a number of his innovations are now being deployed commercially.

Successful pan-Canadian research teams

Finally, Dr. Plant has excelled as a leader having made significant contributions to the Canadian research community through his work building successful pan-Canadian teams that address complex, multidisciplinary broadband communications research challenges.

Since 2003, he has led the following national and provincial networks: 1) the Agile All-Photonic Networks (AAPN) NSERC Strategic Research Network (2003-2008); 2) the Healthcare Support through Information Technology Enhancements (hSITE) NSERC Strategic Research Network (2008-2014); 3) the FQRNT Regroupement strategiques entitled Centre pour les systèmes et technologies avancées en communications (SYTACom; 2004-2017); and 4) the CFI Leading Edge Fund project entitled Laboratories for Broadband Optical and Wireless Systems (LBOWS; 2009-2014).

In AAPN, the team he assembled studied optical transport networks from systems and architectures through to enabling device technologies. His hSITE network is the only network of its kind in Canada that mobilizes engineers and clinicians working on novel, broadband communications systems and infrastructures to improve healthcare efficiency. The following quote summarizes his contributions: “To date, you (David Plant) have been instrumental in helping Nortel to establish “ecosystems” of advanced technology and collaboration.” [Letter of support for the hSITE proposal dated February 8, 2008 from Ms. Deborah Stokes, Director, University Relations, Nortel].

At present he is the only Scientific Director, and Principal Investigator in Canada leading provincial and federal networks in the Information and Communications Technology sector. Dr. Plant received the NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation, the R.A. Fessenden Medal from IEEE Canada (citation: for sustained leadership in the formation and execution of university based national and provincial communications research programs), and was elevated to Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada in recognition of his leadership accomplishments.