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Xiaoyi Bao

Professor and Canada Research Chair
University of Ottawa
Xiaoyi Bao
Xiaoyi Bao
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway
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Dr. Xiaoyi Bao is Canada Research Chair in Fibre Optics and Photonics.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Ottawa, ON

I now live in: Ottawa, ON

I completed my training/education at:  I have education and research training in China, US, Germany and UK for the degree of BSc, MSc, PhD and then Postdoctoral fellow and research fellows.  

What I do at work

As professor of physics, I teach physics courses to undergraduate and graduate students. I also supervise them for research projects. I am also the Canada Research Chair in Fibre Optics and Photonics.

I am a physicist and expert in optical fibers. I discovered that optical cables laid on the seabed picked up noise from tidal waves. I then worked with civil and mechanical engineers to exploit this phenomenon. This led to the development of technology for dynamic stress and temperature monitoring. In essence, we were able to transform optical fibers into “fiber sensors”. These fiber sensors are can detect defects inside structures such as bridges and pipelines.  Check my webpage to learn more about my research and interests.

My career path is

Work hard and never give up. I would say perseverance is the best word to describe the product of many years of effort. I failed many times. Sometimes I exhausted all the possibilities that I could think of, until I found a solution. I was honored to have been a recipient of the 2021 Governor General’s Innovation Award , 2 Canadian Association of Physicists Medals for Outstanding Achievement (2010, 2013), and fellow of Royal Society of Canada (2009).  

I am motivated by

Inventing new tools to solve societal problems is the most rewarding part of my job. Seeing our many year’s efforts and research work being used by people to solve their problems is a great feeling. I like what I am doing!

How I affect peoples’ lives

Throughout my career, I have dedicated significant research efforts to developing distributed sensors. My work has focused on monitoring stress and temperature along various civil structures. These structures include such things as bridges and pipelines. The goal is to identify invisible cracks and defects before accidents happen. The normal way of monitoring these types of structures is to collect qualitative data. For the most part, this is done through visual inspections.

Distributed sensors collect quantitative data. The advantage of quantitative measurement of something like the strain on the walls of a pipeline is that it can provide data that can be compared to stress tests done in a lab setting. For example, how close is the pressure on the pipe walls to the maximum amount it can bear? Distributed sensors can collect data in an ongoing manner. This gives timely information that can improve the response to an incident. It can also help pinpoint damage due to a natural disaster. It can also give information about long-term deterioration and associated failures before they happen.

In addition to saving governments millions in infrastructure maintenance, our distribute acoustic and strain sensor technology can prevent oils spills, as well as highway, bridge, railway and airplane accidents. Our invention contributes to protecting the environment and saving lives across the world.

Outside of work I

Reading, travel, hiking and cooking.

My advice to others

Follow your heart and try hard to stay with it.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Foreign Languages
  • Geography
  • Literature & Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Liked helping people
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Liked reading
  • Was really creative


Royal Society of Canada

Let’s Talk Science appreciates the support of the Royal Society of Canada in connecting us with this individual. 

The Royal Society of Canada is a member driven organization that recognizes Canada's leading scholars, researchers, artists and scientists from across disciplines and across generations in order to help build a better future in Canada and around the world. Let’s Talk Science and the Royal Society of Canada work together to provide timely content on issues that affect us all – from education to the impact of leading-edge scientific discoveries.

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