Published: Tue, October 02, 2018
Research | By Wilma Wheeler

Donna Strickland: The 'laser jock' Nobel prize victor

Donna Strickland: The 'laser jock' Nobel prize victor

Arthur Ashkin, from the USA, was awarded half the £770,000 (9 million Swedish kronor) prize, with the other half shared by Gerard Mourou of France and Canadian Donna Strickland.

"The inventions being honoured this year have revolutionised laser physics", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on awarding the nine million Swedish crown ($1 million) prize. The only other female victor is famed historical physicist Marie Curie. Most notably in 1987, Ashkin used the novel tweezers to capture living bacteria without causing harm to them resulting in the tools being widely used in the machinery of life experimentation. And you do always wonder if it's real.

"We need to celebrate women physicists because they're out there".

A Canadian has professor ended a 55-year drought for female physicists after being awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for physics.

The two "paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind", the committee said.

Arthur Ashkin is an American scientist who worked at Bell Laboratories and Lucent Technologies.


Strickland, 59, was the first woman to win a physics Nobel since 1963 and only the third in history. After magnifying its power, the beam was re-compressed, creating a short but highly energetic burst of laser light.

The Guelph-born Strickland, who is an associate professor at Waterloo, told the academy she was left in disbelief when she got the call from Stockholm notifying her of the win, saying she thought it was "crazy". Then they amplified the signal to the desired level, before compressing it down into an ultrashort, ultrapowerful pulse lasting just a tiny fraction of a second.

The technique, known as chirped pulse amplification or CPA, can use a specialized combination of prisms, optical fibers and mirrors to increase the peak strength of a burst of laser energy.

Arthur Ashkin is one of this year's Nobel prize winners in physics for the invention of optical tweezers.

Göran K. Hansson of the Nobel Foundation said part of the issue is that they often goes back in time to award prizes, a process which can take a lot of time to verify. "I am very, very happy to share this distinction with my former student Donna Strickland and also to share it with Art Ashkin, for whom I have a lot of respect".

2012 - Serge Haroche and David J Wineland were awarded the prize for their work with light and matter.

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