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Dr. Tom Chau, senior scientist, PRISM Lab, and professor at University of Toronto's Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Tom Chau elected as Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

Senior scientist recognized for his international work and impact on children and youth living with disabilities and developmental differences worldwide

Dr. Tom Chau has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, announced today by the prestigious organization.

“I'm grateful that the Royal Society of Canada is promoting Canadian research and scholarly accomplishments in the field of childhood onset disabilities and developmental differences across the lifespan. Given the Royal Society's pervasive reach, I'm confident that this recognition will help to open public discussion and debate on matters important to families, children and youth living with disability and developmental differences,” said Chau, who is a senior scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital’s Bloorview Research Institute and a professor at the University of Toronto’s Biomedical Engineering. Additionally, he is appointed at the Rehabilitation Science Institute and the Collaborative Program in Neuroscience.

”The Bloorview Research Institute is thrilled to see  Dr. Tom Chau’s achievements be recognized by the RSC and proud of the impact he and his research team are making everyday on the lives of young people and their families at home and internationally through the power of research,” said Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou, vice president of research at Holland Bloorview and the director of the Bloorview Research Institute. “This award celebrates the global impact his research is making. Congratulations Tom!”

The senior scientist has transformed the field of pediatric rehabilitation, most notably through his contributions to the development of non-invasive brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) and the establishment of the world’s first pediatric BCI clinic. BCIs detect and interpret brain activity associated with a user’s intentions, allowing individuals to communicate and control devices with their minds, without the need for any motor control.

Chau and his PRISM lab team has introduced more than a dozen new paradigms for brain-machine interaction, including visuo-spatial imagery, whereby an individual imagines a flashing arrow moving in a specific direction to move an object (e.g., a wheelchair). Other access technologies introduced by Chau’s team over the years include facial thermal imaging that sensitively detects subtle orofacial gestures and emotional states, a vocal classifier that can decode keywords in otherwise unintelligible speech, algorithms that decipher intention-related fluctuations in cardiac rhythms, and brain-computer interfaces for children without functional vision.

 Chau has also developed the Hummingbird device, which uses an accelerometer to detect vibrations of the vocal folds to enable communication.  These access technologies (among others) have enabled many of Chau’s research participants to communicate for the first time, significantly improving their quality of life and allowing them to meaningfully participate in their community.

Chau’s advances in pediatric rehabilitation technology and practice, along with his leadership in reconceptualizing what is possible for children living with disabilities, have been recognized with the Governor General’s Innovation Award, the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross, and induction into the Order of Ontario. 

Other Royal Society of Canada fellows at the Bloorview Research Institute:

  • Barbara Gibson, adjunct scientist and Fellow of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada (2016)
  • Sally Lindsay, senior scientist and Fellow of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada (2018)


Founded in 1882, the Royal Society of Canada recognizes Canada’s leading intellectuals, scholars, researchers and artists, and, by mobilizing them in open discussion and debate, to advance knowledge, encourage integrated interdisciplinary understandings and address issues that are critical to Canada and Canadians.