University of Waterloo's Donna Strickland wins Nobel physics prize for laser research

Gwen Vasquez
October 2, 2018

Marie Curie remains the only other woman to have achieved the title back in 1903, and was one among the four winners that year.

Ashkin, of Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, is being honored for his invention of optical tweezers; these laser beam fingers can grab the teensy living cells, including particles, atoms and viruses. Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry are conferred upon people who have excelled in the field of science.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday chose to award the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics to Arthur Ashkin (US) as well as jointly to Gerard Mourou (US) and Donna Strickland (Canada). The winners of the Nobel Prize will be awarded $1 million or £770,000 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

"Obviously we need to celebrate women physicists, because we're out there".

Ashkin's work was based on the realization that the pressure of a beam of light could push microscopic objects and trap them in position. Their discoveries "opened up new areas of research and led to broad industrial and medical applications", the academy said. 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.

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Ashkin is the oldest ever Nobel prize victor - but the 96-year-old is still busy with fresh research.

"I thought there might have been more but I couldn't think". "A guy called me up on the phone and woke me up".

The Nobel committee says Mourou and Strickland 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 event also marks the third time in 55 years that a woman has won the Nobel Prize in physics.

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