Recognition of a brilliant career 

By Barbara Black

John-Christopher Boyer, a recent doctoral graduate, is a Great Montrealer — and he’s ours.

Each year, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal presents awards for outstanding doctoral dissertations.

Mayor Gérald Tremblay with John-Christopher Boyer Magnifying glass

Mayor Gérald Tremblay with John-Christopher Boyer

Boyer won the Prix d’Excellence de l’Académie des Grands Montréalais for his thesis, Synthesis and Spectroscopy of Upconverting Lanthanide-Doped Nanocrystals, which he defended in December 2006 under the direction of John Capobianco.

He did his undergraduate degree at Concordia and could have gone anywhere on the basis of his grade point average of 4.06. He chose to stay at Concordia. His GPA as a graduate student was even higher, 4.21. Boyer will accept the Governor-General’s Gold Medal at fall convocation on Nov. 11 as outstanding graduate student.

In a recommendation, Capobianco wrote of Boyer’s “radical originality and his strikingly creative capacity to generate brilliant results.” The external examiner at his defence commented on the importance of his research, as well as the “considerable maturity” demonstrated by his understanding of the field.

When he joined Capobianco’s lab in 2000, Boyer got in at the beginning of groundbreaking research in the field of nanomaterials. These tiny particles, when doped with lanthanide ions, can undergo upconversion from a low to a higher-energy radiation.

Boyer was the senior graduate student on the research team, and he developed novel synthetic methods for generating the nanocrystals and then dispersing them in solution. (see Journal, April 20, 2006) The discovery has applications in forensics, biosensing and medical imaging.

He already has 24 refereed journal publications to his credit, and many conference presentations. The fact that he is the lead author of so many articles “exceeds all expectations for productivity and professional impact in a graduate student,” according to his citation for the gold medal.

Right after the Oct. 9 Grands Montréalais gala at city hall, Boyer left for the University of Victoria to start postdoctoral work supported by NSERC and FQRNT. He is in the laboratory of Frank van Veggel, continuing his research on the site-specific deposition of nanocrystals in photonic crystals.

“Shortly after I started working for John, I recognized that we were performing some very extraordinary research,” Boyer said in an email from B.C. “We were one of the only groups in the whole world that saw any potential in the materials we were examining. If you look at the literature now, you find numerous groups worldwide examining the topic. We were the trendsetters in this case, and I am proud of it.”

Boyer said that he was attracted early on to materials chemistry. “The discovery of new materials really gets my blood pumping,” he said.

He has won a number of other fellowships and awards during his years at Concordia, notably the Armand C. Archambault, the J.W. O’Brien and the Garnet Strong Graduate Fellowships, as well as NSERC and FQRNT postgraduate fellowships.

He said he chose a career in academia for the freedom that it allows.

“John provided me with keen scientific insight but also with a wealth of knowledge on how to function in an academic setting. My experiences at Concordia were my first with scientific research and were crucial to forming the foundation for my future endeavours as a researcher.”


Concordia University