Donna Strickland: The 'laser jock' Nobel prize victor

The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday

The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday

Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences, which picked the winners, said Strickland and Mourou will receive a quarter of the prize each for their work "generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses", which have become a critical part of corrective eye surgeries amongst other uses.

The 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Arthur Ashkin as well as jointly to Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland Tuesday for their groundbreaking discoveries in "laser physics".

Dr Ashkin developed a laser technique described as optical tweezers, which is used to study biological systems.

Only two women have won a Physics Nobel before: Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963.

Many (presumably under the age of 55) pointed out that this was the first time in their lifetime a woman had won the award.

The 59-year-old Guelph, Ont., native made the discovery while completing her PhD at the University of Rochester in NY and will share half of the US$1.01-million prize with her doctoral adviser, French physicist Gerard Mourou.

Strickland said she was honored by the nomination but also emphasized the need for more female participation and acknowledgment in the field.

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Ashkin told the Nobel committee that he may not be able to give any interviews because "he is very busy with his latest paper".

Her former PhD adviser, Dr Mourou, said he found it hard to describe his emotions at winning the Nobel Prize.

Reacting to her win, Dr Strickland, who is based at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said: "First of all you have to think it's insane, so that was my first thought". Ashkin always had a dream: Imagine if beams of light could be put to work and made to move objects.

Before Strickland and Mourou's pioneering work, the peak power of laser pulses was limited because, when cranked up to high intensities, they would destroy the material used for amplifying its energy. We use Dr. Strickland's discovery in so many of our experiments today in the Quantum Valley, not to mention laser surgery, eye surgery, cancer treatment as well as all areas of industrial design, manufacturing and production, and countless other precision uses.

The physicists' newly-invented powerfully-efficient technique was named chirped pulse amplification (CPA).

"The inventions being honored this year have revolutionized laser physics", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on awarding the nine million Swedish crown ($1 million) prize.

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