Dean of Science writes three-part series in support of basic research

Thursday, January 19, 2023


Liquid crystal

Dr. Bob Lemieux, Dean of Science and Professor of Chemistry at Waterloo, has written a three-part series to demonstrate why conducting basic research is critical to our ongoing quest to innovate. The first article was published today on LinkedIn.

Basic research aims to expand various fields of knowledge and improve our understanding of natural and physical phenomena rather than solving a specific problem. It's slow and incremental nature combined with no immediate commercial value means basic research is often overlooked in favour of applied research.

Basic research has fuelled innovation and changed the world in many ways. It shows that you cannot program innovation—you cannot predict the ‘next big thing.’ Supporting basic research is often a leap of faith, although history has demonstrated that it continues to be a pretty solid bet.

The first part of the series provides an overview of basic research. Lemieux outlines the challenges and hurdles facing basic research, including a progressive erosion of funding. He demonstrates the important role that basic research provides to the innovation pipeline as well as training the next generation of scientists. 

The second piece in the series will focus on the discovery of liquid crystals - a serendipitous discovery from 1888 that changed the world as we know it.

The third and final piece will explain how the discovery of liquid crystals led to the development of LCD technology and the impact of Donna Strickland's Nobel Prize-winning discovery on vision health care.