Published: Tue, October 02, 2018
Science | By Celia Watts

Canadian Donna Strickland third woman to win Nobel physics prize

Canadian Donna Strickland third woman to win Nobel physics prize

Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo in Ontario won part of the USA $1.01 million prize, which she shared with Arthur Ashkin of the United States and Gerard Mourou of France.

She is also only the third to have won the physics prize - the first was Marie Curie in 1903. In 1987, he used the tweezers to grasp living bacteria without harming them, according to the academy statement. However, in this celebratory narrative, let us not get carried away by Strickland's achievement - that of a woman winning the physics Nobel Prize - because it is not an achievement. Strickland is the first female physics prize victor in 55 years.

Meanwhile Mourou, 74, and Strickland - only the third woman to win the Physics Prize - won for together developing a method to generate ultra-short optical pulses, "the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind", the jury said. The technique uses the gentle pressure of light itself to trap and push a microscopic, transparent sphere into the center of a laser beam.

The pair's technique, called chirped pulse amplification, has already been adapted to the medical sphere, leading to new advances in corrective eye surgery. In research that would be used for Strickland's doctoral thesis, the pair manipulated beams of light to make them more powerful.

France's President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to the French co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, saying the award highlights French research and its applications.

Mourou, 74, now a professor at the École Polytechnique in France, was Strickland's academic advisor at the University of Rochester in NY in the 1980s, where together they created chirped pulse amplification, or CPA. 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. One morning, after he had left them overnight, the samples contained large particles that moved "hither and thither", as the Nobel committee charmingly put it.

Wednesday: Nobel Prize in chemistry will be awarded.

Gérard Mourou, one of three scientists to win the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, is shown during a conference in Paris, France, in 2015.

The field of laser manipulation is still pushing toward higher intensities, sharper focus, and more power-as this technology develops, the discoveries made by this year's Nobel awardees could have implications for subjects as widespread as medicine, electronics hardware and nuclear physics.

Like this: