Lab on a Chip, Micro and Nanotechnologies in the Applied Miniaturisation Lab

Dr. Christopher James Backhouse

Professor and Engineering Physics Program Director, 
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
2-047 Electrical & Computer Engineering Research Facility (ECERF),
University of Alberta, 9107 - 116 St., Edmonton, Alberta,
Canada T6G 2V4
Tel: +1 (780) 492-2920   Fac: +1 (780) 492-1811    Web:


I moved from industry to this department in 1999. The primary focus of the research in my lab, the Applied Miniaturisation Laboratory (AML), is upon making important technologies more accessible through miniaturisation and integration. Nowhere is this more important than in applying nanobiotechnologies in "Lab on Chip" systems. In particular, we work closely with academic and industrial collaborators in developing medical diagnostic devices that have the potential to dramatically affect how we deliver healthcare. Please take a look at our research group's site. Further biographical information can be found here. (These web pages are under construction - please hit 'reload' when revisiting.)

Table of Contents

Teaching Overview
Engineering Physics Overview
Research Overview
Recent Publications
2008 (as of August)
Notes, Calculations and Letters

Teaching Overview

My primary courses are presently EE 455 (nanobiotechnology) and the Engineering Physics design courses EE494, 495, 496 and 497. In addition to various graduate-level courses, I have taught EE 316 and 470 (electromagnetism), EE 401 (capstone design), and EE 459 (introduction to nanotechnologies). Although still under development, further detail on present courses can be found here:

Nanobiotechnology: EE455 ,

Eng. Phys. Research & Design Project EE494/495 and,

Nanotechnology Option: Eng. Phys. Research & Design Project EE496/497.

My office hours are in my office door and will evolve as I get feedback from students. So far, I can summarise them as 'mornings'. The intent here is to have some overlap with everyone... but this is always a challenge! If you let me know you are coming then I will hold the spot. (Otherwise I may end up meeting someone else in that timeslot - depending on who shows up and when.) If this timetable does not work for you then please arrange a meeting.

Engineering Physics Overview

The engineering physics program is an exciting combination of the core courses needed to become a professional engineer (often the cornerstone of an engineering careers), and the tools needed to understand the cosmos. This combination is particularly relevant in the development of new technologies, the development of which enables the ongoing extension of Moore's Law, whether in electronics or in many other fields. For those who find this combination to be of interest, please feel free to come in for a chat. For those in the program, I will meet up with you at some point either in class or when you need my OK for something. A "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) and a set of guidelines can be found here. This provides details on getting special permissions and for finding me...

Research Overview

The research activities of the AML are directed towards the use and development of microsystems and nanotechnologies based upon them. Such microsystems, and in particular those based on microfluidic devices, allow new ways of making electrical, chemical and biological measurements. These systems, also known as "Lab on a Chip" systems, are expected to dramatically facilitate the effective implementation of nanotechnologies, especially in healthcare. Further detail on present research will soon be found here. For a visual introduction to what we do, please see the Gallery (below). A more comprehensive website, albeit not always as up-to-date, is that of the AML.


This section will soon provide a link to resources used by the AML, students in courses and possibly visitors. Please see here.


We now have (Fall 2009) a position for a Post Doctoral Fellow (PDF) in the area of microfabrication/microfluidics. Recent (last several years) PhD graduates with a demonstrated track record of microfabrirication and productive experimental research are encouraged to apply. The people working at the AML have been from diverse backgrounds - often electrical engineers, but also analytical chemists, biochemists, molecular biologists, and physicists. This type of interdisciplinary approach is exciting, provides good training opportunities and is productive. (See the Gallery and Publications section for more details). Recent doctoral graduates that find such an interdisciplinary environment appealing should email me with the subject line of "ATTN PDF".

Similarly, we are generally on the lookout for the right students too. Potential graduate students that have a suitable background and that find such an interdisciplinary environment appealing should email me with the subject line of "ATTN Grad".

Recent Publications

These are exciting times in the LOC field with a dynamic world community developing technologies over a wide front. Much change is afoot, and our area of expertise has been the integration and adaptation of chip, system and application to bring about solutions that are cost-effective enough to be accessible for the healthcare of the general public. The AML also has a number of non-LOC activities, as can be seen below. Where possible, a link has been provided to the full text. Although in some cases these links are to an open-access site (marked as open access), in many cases the publisher has (graciously) allowed access from this website only with the understanding that the papers will not be redistributed.

2008 (as of August)

  • Rapid simulation of wide-angle scattering from mitochondria in single cells , P.M. Pilarski, X. Su, D. M. Glerum, and C. J. Backhouse, Optics Express 16 12819-12834, 2008 (abstract & full text [open access])

  • Elemental analysis using micro-laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (uLIBS) in a microfluidic platform, Y. Godwal, G. Kaigala, V. Hoang, S. Lui, C. Backhouse, Y. Tsui, R. Fedosejevs, Optics Express 16 12435-12445 (2008). (abstract & full text [open access])

  • HV CMOS Controller for Microfluidics, M. Khorasani, M. Behnam, L. Berg, C. Backhouse, D. G. Elliott, IEEE Trans. Biomed. Circuits & Systems (Accepted March/2008)

  • A Single Chip HV Supply for “True” Lab-on-a-Chip, M. Behnam, G. V. Kaigala, M. Khorasani, P. Marshall, C. Backhouse, D. G. Elliott, Lab Chip 8 (2008) 1524-1529. (full text)

  • A Microfluidic Study of Mechanisms in the Electrophoresis of scDNA, D. Manage, I. Imriskova-Sosova, D. M. Glerum, C. Backhouse, Electrophoresis 10.1002/elps.200700957 (abstract)

  • Electrically Controlled Microvalves to Integrate Microchip PCR and Capillary Electrophoresis, G. Kaigala, V. Hoang, C. Backhouse, Lab Chip 8 (2008) 1071-1078. (fulltext)

  • System Design and Modelling of a Time-varying, Nonlinear Temperature Controller for Microfluidics, G.V. Kaigala, J. Jiang, C. Backhouse, H. Marquez, IEEE Trans. on Control Systems Technology (Accepted March/2008)

  • Readily Integrated, Electrically-Addressable Microvalves, W. H. Song, J. Kwan, G. Kaigala, V. Hoang, C. Backhouse, J. Micromech. Microeng. (2008) 18 1-9. (abstract)

  • Integrated Wavelength-Selective Optical Waveguides for Microfluidic-Based LIF Detection, C. Bliss, J. McMullin, C. Backhouse, Lab Chip 8 (2008) 143-151. (full text)

  • Fully Portable and Inexpensive Microchip-Based Genetic Analysis Platform for Integrated RT-PCR and Capillary Electrophoresis, G. Kaigala, V. Hoang, J. Lauzon, L. Pilarski, C. Backhouse, Analyst 133 (2008) 331-338. (full text)

  • Dynamic Temperature Measurement in Microfluidic Devices Using Thermochromic Liquid Crystalsi, V. N. Hoang, G. Kaigala, C. Backhouse, Lab Chip 8 (2008) 484–487 (full text)


  • Rapid Fabrication of a Microfluidic Device with Integrated Optical Waveguides for DNA Analysis, C. Bliss, J. McMullin, C. Backhouse, Lab Chip 7 (2007) 1280-1287. (full text)

  • Measurements of Light Scattering in Integrated Microfluidic Waveguide Cytometers, X. Su, K. Singh, C. Capjack, J. Petráček, C. Backhouse,W. Rozmus, J. Biomedical Optics (2008) 13(2):024024 (abstract)

  • Advances in Intense Beams, Beam Delivery, Targetry, and Radiochemistry at Advanced Cyclotron Systems, R. Johnson, R. Watt, B. Kovac, A. Zyuzin, E. Van Lier, K. Erdman, W. Gyles, V. Sabaiduc, S. A. McQuarrie, J. Wilson, C. Backhouse, W. Gelbart, T. Kuo, Nuclear Instruments & Methods in Physics Research 261 803-808 (2007).

  • 2D Light Scattering Patterns of Mitochondria in Single Cells, X. Su, C. Capjack, W. Rozmus, C. Backhouse, Optics Express (2007) 15, 10562-10575 (abstract & full text [open access])

  • Microfluidic Platform for SNP Genotyping of the Thiopurine s-Methlytransferase Gene to Evaluate Risk for Adverse Drug Events, J. Chowdhury, G. Kaigala, S. Pushpakom, Jana Lauzon, A. Makin, A. Atrazhev, A. Stickel, W. G. Newman, C. Backhouse, L. M. Pilarski, J. Molec. Diagn. (2007) 9 521-529 (abstract)

  • Rapid Prototyping of Microfluidic Devices with a Wax Printer, G.V. Kaigala, S. Ho, R. Penterman, C. Backhouse, Lab Chip, 7 384 (2007) (full text)

  • FISH and Chips: Chromosomal Analysis on Microfluidic Platforms, V. J. Sieben, C. S. Debes Marun, P. M. Pilarski, G. V. Kaigala, L. M. Pilarski, C. Backhouse, IET Nanobiotechnology (2007) 1 27-35 (abstract)

  • Microfluidic Chips for Detecting the t(4;14) Translocation and Monitoring Disease During Treatment Using RT-PCR Analysis of IgH-MMSET Hybrid Transcripts, J. VanDijken, G. V. Kaigala, J. Lauzon, A. Atrazhev, S. Adamia, B. J. Taylor, T. Reiman, A. R. Belch, C. Backhouse, L. M. Pilarski, The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics 2007 9 358-367. (abstract)

A more complete list, of earlier publications, is here.


This section will provide a visual tour of the research and the researchers in my lab, ranging from instruments and chips to people. Please see here.

Notes, Calculations and Letters

This is an assortment of notes and thoughts of general interest. Notes.

This page was last revised in August, 2008. As is the nature of such things, it will only occasionally be updated - please check up on us in the literature!

Creative Commons License
This web page by Chris Backhouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License. Please note that this applies only to our work and does not apply to any linked material provided by the publishers. In such cases, unless marked as open access, copyright is held by the publisher and the publication cannot be redistributed.