Ben Sprott

Welcome to the Home Page of Ben Sprott

Updated October 23, 2012

I am a researcher and programmer with a very strong background in both physics and computer science.  I hold my MSc degree in physics from the University of Waterloo and my MSc in Computer Science from McGill University.  I have worked as a researcher, and test specialist in the fiber optics industry, as well as being a research assistant at McGill.  While at the University of Waterloo  I was a member of the Perimeter Institute.  During my recent studies and work experience I have trained in the following skills:

  • Java , C++, Matlab, Python
  • Eclipse, Subversion (SVN), Accurev
  • Software development lifecycle
  • Software verification techniques and their associated automation
  • Network testing equipment and strategies
  • High speed telecommunications protocols like DP-QPSK and their physical modulation techniques
  • Design and analysis of polarization modulation schemes
  • Design, modelling and fabrication of semiconductor devices including high speed AlGalAs polarization modulators
  • Design of grating stabilized lasers
  • Silicon photonic circuit design and layout (Lumerical software, Mentor Graphics Pyxis)
  • OpenGL and jogl
  • Physics based animation
  • Integration schemes for ODE's and DAE
    • Forward and Symplectic Euler
    • RK4
    • verlets
  • Integrating constrained systems
  • conjugate gradients for solving linear systems
  • constraint graphs
  • minimum spanning trees and related algorithms of Prim and Kruskal
  • motion capture
  • distributed system design
    • middleware
    • replication
    • recovery and persistence
    • two-phase commit
  • threads for concurrency in Java
  • Java Remote Method Invocation (RMI)
  • TCP sockets
  • dead reconing
  • A* algorithm for basic AI
Recent Work Experience
Since September 2011, I have been working at one of Ottawa's great, burgeoning engineering firms, Optelian Access Networks.  At this small manufacturer of fiber optic networking systems, I have been employed as both a researcher and product verification specialist.  In particular, I have had the opportunity to increase the company's knowledge of semiconductor lasers and high speed AlGaAs polarization controllers.  In particular, I performed in depth physics based research including the development of Matlab simulations of complex semiconductor devices.  Moreover, I also developed particular designs, and performed important research which clarified the applications of certain enabling technologies towards high speed modulation formats.

I have had the distinct pleasure of working as an optical test specialist at Metrophotonics and JDSU in Ottawa.  My work there focused on the testing of optical amplifiers in high volume production, the testing of electro-optical chips for DWDM and dynamic channel monitoring and helping to manage an R&D focused optics lab.

Other Interests
I was previously a research assistant for Prakash Panangaden in the Computer Science department at McGill.  Under his guidance, I learned some of the many exciting new applications of Category Theory to both physics and computer science.  Specifically, we were attempting to expand his work on the Quantum Causal Dynamics to include simple optical devices.  Our goal was to probe some of the famous quantum interference experiments in a causal mechanics using a symmetric monoidal category.

Before that, I worked with Lucien Hardy at the Perimeter Institute on expanding his thoughts on the quantum automaton.  My thesis focused on the word problem for the one way quantum automaton and contains an interesting new theorem.

Over the years, I have written a collection of papers which generally demonstrate the power of presenting structures amongst the transformations of different categories of mathematical objects such as topological manifolds and Hilbert spaces.  I developed the beginnings of a quantum computational linguistic model, attempted to give a kind of relational statistics and hence an entropy for knots and tangles and I investigated Rob Spekkens' Toy Model as a means of probing questions of ontology and epistemology in quantum theory.  I currently enjoy advancing our understanding of physics as an epistemic restriction on causal structure and how categorical structures can be used to express this and perhaps even be used to derive quantum theory and quantum field theory.