Queen's Research & Queen's Students: A Winning Combination

spectra plasmonics founders
Queen’s students Yusuf Ahmed, Tyler Whitney, Christian Baldwin, Malcolm Eade, and Ryan Picard are the founders of Spectra Plasmonics.

Just six months after winning one of the world’s most prestigious student business plan competitions, Christian Baldwin, Sc’18, is ready to share the secrets of his team’s success with Queen’s alumni in the San Francisco Bay area. 

Joining Mr. Baldwin will be Dr. Aristides Docoslis, a professor of Chemical Engineering, who co-led the research team that invented a coated silicon chip that makes it faster and easier to detect illegal drugs and harmful chemicals. The chip will reduce the need for expensive tests, creating efficiencies and cost savings in everything from food safety to law enforcement to forensics. 

Dr. Docoslis’s invention is a true Made at Queen’s success story. The technology originated in a Chemical Engineering research lab and was introduced to students at the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI). A 17-week paid summer internship program run out of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, QICSI gives student teams a chance to create a company and nurture it through the start-up phase as they compete for up to $30,000 in prize money to help their businesses grow.

Mr. Baldwin and his teammates didn’t have a business idea when they joined QICSI last summer. With the help of the Office of Partnerships and Innovation, they learned of Dr. Docoslis’ chip and launched Spectra Plasmonics to bring it to market.

The technology opens the door to powerful, inexpensive, portable, chemical testing devices that are more accurate, faster, and require less skill to operate than traditional testing methods.

After a strong finish in the QICSI competition, the Spectra team set its sights on the international stage. Team member Tyler Whitney, Comm’17, Arts’18, learned about the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition while spending a year abroad in Singapore. 

Named after Singapore’s first prime minister, the man widely credited with setting the country’s global business agenda, the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition attracts applicants from the world’s most innovative universities and challenges them to develop a business idea that leverages technology to build smaller cities. Last year’s competition drew 550 applicants. After a rigorous vetting process, only four teams make it to the final round. Not only did Spectra Plasmonics make it to the final round, the team took home the grand prize of $125,000 cash, $100,00 in venture capitalist funding and tens of thousands of dollars in prizes including legal and marketing services.

“Spectra Plasmonics’ victory was an important accomplishment for Queen’s,” says Kevin Deluzio, Sc’88, MSc’90, PhD,’97, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “It started with an idea from one of our researchers and came to life through the efforts of our students. It demonstrates that Queen’s really is the balanced academy we strive to be: We are capable of world-changing research, and we offer our students a transformative learning experience, including the opportunity to take part in – and win – prestigious international competitions.”