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Tom Chau

Tom Chau, PhD, PEng

Distinguished Senior Scientist; Raymond Chang Foundation Chair in Access Innovations

Visit the PRISM Lab


Research Focus:

Dr. Chau and his PRISM lab have focused on access innovations in recent years.  Access innovations include the discovery, design, and evaluation of novel pathways by which children and youth can communicate or interact with their environment in the absence of functional speech and gestures.

Research Focus (Academic Version)

Dr. Chau has introduced several new access pathways including, but not limited to those that exploit mechanomyography (muscle vibrations), vocal fold vibrations, brain oxygenation, brain blood flow velocities, and orofacial gestures (e.g., opening/closing the mouth, protruding the tongue).

His access research has grown to include the development of an in-school access and communication training protocol, which engages the student, teachers, educational assistants and parents. Currently, his team is developing analytical techniques for several access pathways based on brain activity. They have also conducted research to better understand the subtle timing patterns of repetitive movements such as walking and circle drawing. This knowledge may suggest new ways to measure motor improvement and the impact of interventions.

Dr. Chau and his team have also published a number of papers relating to the forces associated with handwriting. That research is useful in informing occupational therapy intervention for handwriting difficulties. On the virtual reality front, our lab has been involved in the development and clinical testing of various augmented environments, including, the virtual music instrument, a wearable pedestrian and wheelchair indoor localization system, and most recently, a Kinect-based art program. These environments offer new media for intervention.

Finally, Dr. Chau and his team have devoted many years of research towards the development of a new medical device relating to swallowing disorders.

Education & Profession


  • Post-doc (Duncan L Gordon Fellowship), Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre 
  • Ph.D., Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo 
  • M.A.Sc., Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Toronto 
  • B.A.Sc., Engineering Science, University of Toronto

Professional Memberships:

  • Professional Engineers Ontario

University Positions / Affiliations:

  • Professor, University of Toronto Leader, NSERC CREATE: Academic Rehabilitation Engineering (CARE) Program 

Honours and Awards:


  • 2016 Cathleen Lyle Murray Award, American Academy of Cerebral Palsy, Florida, United States. (Distinction)
  • 2014 Elected Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, Washington, United States (Distinction)
  • 2012 Product Utilization Support and Help (PUSH) Award. Center on Knowledge Translation for Technology Transfer (K4TT), University of Buffalo, New York, United States.(Distinction) Citation: Exemplary knowledge translation work of the Lab (Infinity Communication Lab) in its efforts to discover person-centered access solutions for children with a range of developmental conditions. Total Amount: $1,000 USD 
  • 2010 Da Vinci Award, National Multiple Sclerosis Society (USA). (Distinction) For: VMI Virtual Music Instrument. 
  • 2010 The Forchheimer Prize, International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics. (Distinction) For: Best Paper in the International Prosthetics and Orthotics Journal in 2007-2009. With E. Biddiss. 
  • 2007 Science Hero - Biomedical Engineer, My Hero Project, United States. (Distinction)
  • 2007 The Perkins Prize, Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. (Distinction) For Best Paper in the Journal of Medical Engineering & Physics in 2006 (With E. Biddiss).
  • 2004 Who’s Who in Medical Sciences Education (WWMSE), Academic Keys. (Distinction) 


  • 2018 Governor General’s Innovation Award, Governor General of Canada (Distinction)
  • 2018 Order of Ontario, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (Distinction)
  • 2017 Meritorious Service Cross, Governor General of Canada (Distinction)
  • 2017 Elected Fellow, Canadian Academy of Engineering  Distinction)
  • 2016 Dr. Jonas Salk Award, March of Dimes (Distinction)
  • 2014 Morris (Mickey) Milner Award, Health Technology Exchange.
  • 2013 Feb Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Governor General of Canada, Canada. (Distinction) For: Canadian engineers who have contributed to their communities. 
  • 2010 25 Transformational Canadians, Globe & Mail, Cisco Canada, CTV. (Distinction)
  • 2009-2014 Canada Research Chair in Pediatric Rehabilitation Engineering (renewal), Canada Research Chairs. (Distinction) Tier II. 
  • 2007 Top 40 Under 40, Caldwell Partners. (Distinction) Canada-wide competition. 
  • 2006 2006 Honour Roll, Maclean’s Magazine. (Distinction) Discoverers & Thinkers category. 
  • 2006 For Kids Sake Award, Today’s Parent Magazine (Rogers Communications). (Distinction) 
  • 2004-2009 Canada Research Chair in Pediatric Rehabilitation Engineering, Canada Research Chairs. (Distinction) Tier II. PROVINCIAL / REGIONAL 
  • 2008 Early Researcher Award, Ministry of Research and Innovation, Province of Ontario. (Distinction) 
  • 2005 Engineering Medal - Young Engineer, Ontario Society of Professional Engineers and Professional Engineers Ontario. (Distinction) 
  • 2004 Ontario Distinguished Researcher Award, Ontario Innovation Trust. (Distinction) 


  • 2020 President’s Impact Award, University of Toronto 
  • 2017 2T5 Mid-Career Achievement Award, Engineering Alumni Association, University of Toronto
  • 2014 (- Present) Raymond Chang Foundation Chair in Access Innovations, Holland Bloorview - University of Toronto (Research Award)
  • 2012 Inventor of the Year in Information & Communication, Technology, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Toronto. (Distinction) 
  • 2011 Graduate Faculty Teaching Award - Excellence in Graduate Student Mentorship, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto 
  • 2005 Circle of Honour Award for Research,. Holland Bloorview (Distinction)


Click to see Dr. Tom Chau's publications on PubMed.

Click to see Dr. Tom Chau's publications on Google Scholars

Contact Info

Bloorview Research Institute
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital 
150 Kilgour Road Toronto, Ontario M4G 1R8 
Tel: 416-425-6220, extension 3515 

Contact Email:;

Media Expertise

childhood disability research, pediatric rehabilitation engineering (i.e.: brain-computer interfaces)