Winners of Nobel Prize honored for their work with lasers

Gwen Vasquez
October 4, 2018

Donna Strickland, a University of Waterloo professor who helped to pioneer the development of lasers that produce brief but intense pulses of light for a range of applications, has been named a victor of this year's Nobel Prize in physics.

Canadian Donna Strickland, Gerard Mourou from France and American Arthur Ashkin will share the £998,662.97 [$998,662.97] prize.

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.

Donna Strickland is only the third woman victor of the award, along with Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963.

Donna Strickland and Gérard Mourou were awarded one half of the award, with the other half going to Arthur Ashkin. They are so short that we can time them as never before.

Strickland noted she has not personally experienced fundamental inequality and believes the field is ready to give women a more prominent place.

"Obviously we need to celebrate women physicists, because we're out there, " she said. "And I think a lot of that is the cultural perception that this is a man's science, for whatever reason". He is the first MD Anderson scientist to receive the world's most preeminent award for outstanding discoveries in the fields of life sciences and medicine. "First of all, you have to think it's insane".

"The most fun part of my day is when I get to play with my lasers", she told The Record in 2010.

Strickland's words moved Kristi Webb, a physics graduate student, to tears.

Donna Strickland, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, photographed in her lab - following a news conference after winning the Nobel Prize for Physics - at the university in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, October 2, 2018. Extremely small objects and incredibly rapid processes are now being seen in a new light.

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"I told her she doesn't have to submit a very long CV, one line will be sufficient", he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. The technique is also used in medical science, specifically, as the lasers in corrective eye surgery.

Strickland said she and Mourou were well aware that they were onto something in 1982 when they began researching ways to allow lasers to perform high-intensity, ultra-short pulses that would not damage the equipment.

"With the technology we have developed, laser power has been increased about a million times, maybe even a billion".

"I had given up", Ashkin said, sitting on a couch in his Rumson, New Jersey, living room. "Just keep on making it better and better", he says.

Mourou's prediction came to pass a mere decade later, she said, adding Chirped Pulse Amplification now has broad applications.

The University of Waterloo issued its congratulations to Strickland on Tuesday morning.

However, when you squash light into such a short space of time, you also make it very, very intense.

He thanked Strickland "for inspiring other women and young girls to dream without limits and pursue the careers of their choice".

"I was always afraid I wasn't smart enough", he said.

The trio won for their work in laser physics.

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