Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Research interests: microfluidic lab-on-a-chip systems; MEMS/NEMS; sensors; microfabrication


Professor Chris Backhouse has developed a wide range of devices and instrumentation, both in industry and in academic research. He received his BSc in Physics at the University of Alberta in 1985 and was awarded the Louis B. Crosby Gold Medal. He received an MSc (Radio Astronomy, 1987), and PhD (Electrical Engineering, 1992) at the University of British Columbia, Canada. Following graduation, he held academic and industrial postdoctoral fellowships in electrochemistry (UBC) and quantum device development for non-invasive medical imaging (CTF Systems). In a subsequent collaboration between Canadian industry and an international partner (Applied Biosystems), he developed large-scale microchips and their fabrication technologies for use in the Human Genome Project. As an offshoot of this work, he led an industrial research team in developing genetic analysis instrumentation that was ultimately sold around the world. In 1999, he moved from industry to the University of Alberta where he was a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1999-2011 as well as being the Director of the Engineering Physics program. In 2011, he moved to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo. From 2012-2014 he was the Director of the Nanotechnology Engineering program.

His research (in his lab, the Applied Miniaturisation Laboratory, AML), is directed to making important technologies more accessible through miniaturisation and integration, and to use these technologies to explore new frontiers. A particular focus is with nanobiotechnologies and medical diagnostics. Now that nanoelectronics (in the form of CMOS) are integral to every aspect of our lives and industry, the impact of doing the same with nanobiotechnologies would clearly be dramatic. Working with industry, this ongoing work has led to the AML's medical diagnostic instrumentation decreasing in cost by a factor of about 5 each year. This work was recognised by the Summit Award for Project Achievement in 2008 and the National Award for an Engineering Project in 2009. Other research areas have involved electrochemistry, radio-isotope manufacture, remote sensing and radio astronomy. Present activities are largely focused upon lab-on-chip devices and applications, often with CMOS integration. A developing area of his research is the use of lab-on-chip devices to explore quantum effects in biological systems.


  • PhD, Electrical Engineering, University of British Columbia, 1992
  • MSc, Physics/Radio Astronomy, University of British Columbia, 1987
  • BSc, Physics, University of Alberta, 1985

Chris Backhouse

    University of Waterloo