Meet the Innovator: Naveen Chopra

Tell us about your role at XRCC?

In my current role as a Senior Research Scientist, I’m working on the Additive Manufacturing project. Additive manufacturing encompasses the ‘real-world’ applications of what most people know as 3D-printing. I work in a dynamic interdisciplinary team with co-workers who have a range of backgrounds, including materials characterization, rheology, ink formulation, and hardware design. I contribute to the project by formulating inks and synthesizing specialty components for the inks as well.

In addition to my technical contributions, I serve on various committees at XRCC, such as the TAP (Technical Advisory Panel), XTIN (Xerox Technology Incubator Network), ERT (Emergency Response Team) and RIC (Resource Inventory Committee). Most recently, I’m trying to become involved in external initiatives to grow my scientific contacts, through involvement in ICUBE at University of Toronto Mississauga (on-campus accelerator), and serving as an external examiner for Ph.D. student theses. I am very passionate about student outreach, mentorship opportunities, and sharing my research experiences with others.

(Editor’s note: Naveen was one of the recipients of the 2015 Anne Mulcahy award,  named in honour of Xerox’s retired chairman and chief executive officer, created to shine the spotlight on inventors whose patents opened up new business opportunities for Xerox.)

How long have you been with Xerox? What made you decide to join?

I have been with Xerox for 16 years (since 1999). When I was still doing my postdoctoral fellowship overseas, I saw the job at Xerox as an opportunity to come back home and be closer to my family. One of my former research colleagues whom I knew in graduate school had recently started work at XRCC, and I had heard good things about the Centre, which also piqued my interest. What struck me at the time was the fact that the materials research being done at XRCC was not being duplicated at any other Xerox centres, and the work was, (and continues to be) truly exciting, original, and innovative. To this day, I still feel privileged to work at XRCC, I have worked with some truly remarkable people, and had a lot of fun along the way.

What inspires you to be innovative?

I am always looking for new and better ways to do things, whether it’s making a new molecule that can add functionality to an ink, to a new process that can streamline a technology. I’m always fascinated when I’m tasked with working on a new project, I dig into the technical detail, read lots of papers, and learn about the current state-of-the-art. My first inclination is: ‘What are the shortfalls, and how can we make this better?”

What projects are you excited to be working on?

I’m excited to be working on projects that are materials-intensive. By that, I mean projects that require a lot of materials optimization. UV-curable ink is a good example of this. In this instance, you have to optimize several components of the ink. First, the photoinitiators, the molecules that harvest the light to trigger the polymerization reaction (or ‘cure’). Second, the monomers and oligomers, which are the bread-and-butter of the ink. Monomers drive the materials properties, ranging from hard to soft, brittle to rubbery. Another project that was interesting to me was the photochromic ink project. In this case, we were working on molecules that change colour under the influence of UV light-they were basically molecular switches. Some of my best ideas came out during this project, and I had an opportunity to do some really fun organic synthesis, and integrate these molecular switches into a practical application.

What are your passions in life? How do you spend your free time?

If you talk to anyone who knows me even just a little bit, the first thing they’ll probably say is ‘Naveen, he’s a total hockey fanatic!’ Playing hockey is a big part of my life. I have been playing since I was 11 years’ old, and have played nearly every year since, and now I’m 46-that’s a lot of miles skated!  Even when I did a postdoctoral fellowship in Melbourne, Australia, I brought my equipment with me! Currently, I play 3-4 times a week (usually late at night after the kids are in bed, of course).

As a kid, I was always fond of art, drawing, and building model kits. Every year, I carve pumpkins with some interesting themes. One year when I found out I was going to be a father, I carved a silhouette of the baby’s ultrasound image-it was an original way to break the exciting news!