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Ruth Rayman, B.Eng.Mgt. '84

(Engineering Physics) | Making Light Work for Canada

A job in Canada’s fledgling photonics industry wasn’t Ruth Rayman’s original career plan.

As an Engineering Physics and Management student, Rayman had her sights set on the nuclear industry. She had chosen McMaster for the opportunity to work on the reactor, and spent her summers employed with Ontario Hydro. But, thanks in part to a slowdown in the Canadian nuclear industry when Rayman graduated in 1984, she shifted her focus to the emerging photonics field.

Her first job was with Bell-Northern Research (a joint venture of Bell Canada and Northern Telecom), just as fibre optics was emerging. That technology now drives the world’s communications networks, and Rayman recognizes how fortunate she was to join the industry in its earliest days.

“My career has spanned the first 30 years of this technology’s growth,” she says.

“I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, when a great industry for Canada was being born. I also lucked out to be in a really great program – one of the few Bachelor of Engineering Physics programs with a stream in optics.”

Over the last three decades, Rayman has worked with teams who improve the speed, capacity, reliability, energy efficiency and economics of the semiconductor components used in telecommunications.

She has held a variety of senior management positions overseeing technology development and commercialization with companies including RCA Electro-Optics, Lumonics, and Nortel Networks.

Now with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), Rayman is Director General of the Information and Communications Technologies Research Centre, where she leads a team of over 250 researchers and technologists working on machine learning and data analytics technologies, as well as photonic and electronic semiconductor materials and device research.

The job requires her to keep her eye on the big picture, to ensure NRC research is helpful to Canadian industry, complementary to the work underway in the university labs, and focused on keeping Canada internationally competitive into the future.

“There are lots of things you can do in research,” says Rayman. “Picking which ones you should be doing, and which ones are going to be valuable to Canada, can be a challenge.”