Tom Steiner

PhD, Physics, SFU, 1986

MSc, Computer Science, SFU, 1994

Chief Technology Officer, Etalim Inc.



I was born in Switzerland and emigrated to Canada with my parents in 1968.  I have always loved physics and wanted to be a physicist from the moment I first figured out what it was all about.  I attended the University of Waterloo and graduated with a B.Sc. in physics before moving west to attend graduate school at SFU.  After graduating with a Ph.D. in physics from SFU, I did a post-doctoral fellowship at IBM’s Yorktown Heights research lab. I returned to SFU to work as a research associate in the physics department as I love living in this part of the world.  I was fortunate enough to end up working at Creo and became involved in a variety of very interesting projects ranging from giant laser printers for imaging printing plates to optical cross-connect switchs to a page wide high speed ink jet printer.  After Creo was sold to Kodak, I took the opportunity to start my own company and pursue my long standing interest in energy related technologies with the goal of building a successful business that will impact the climate change challenges that we face.


Why did you choose to go to SFU?   

I wanted to leave Ontario and go west to the mountains and the ocean so it was really between UBC and SFU.  I got a summer job offer and a scholarship offer from SFU that convincingly tilted the balance in favour of SFU.

Where did you spend the most amount of time on campus?

Windowless room in the bowels of the physics department.  That may not sound great but it is perfect for spectroscopy.  I also spent a lot of time outdoors and in the gym training for triathlons.

What is your favorite memory from your time at SFU?

My entire time there was excellent in every respect so I am unable to come up with a favorite.

Who was your favorite SFU professor and why?

Mike Thewalt was my Ph.D. supervisor and I learned so much from him - the most important thing being to not be afraid to tackle anything.

How has your SFU degree impacted your career? 

The extremely broad technical background that I obtained from working in Mike Thewalt’s experimental physics lab has really helped me with the disparate technical problems that I have worked on in the industrial sphere.   

What is your favorite SFU snow story?

Quite a few times I rode my bike up the hill in the snow wondering how I was going to get back down.  A number of times I had to walk down in the dark without suitable footwear. 

If you could give advice to students today, what would you tell them?

Be sure to make the most of your time as a student.  Learn lots and follow your interests but also have some fun with extracurricular activities.

What is the one thing about SFU that must not change?

SFU must continue to successfully teach students the problem solving skills they will need to tackle the problems they will encounter after graduation.