First woman in 55 years wins Physics Nobel Prize with laser tech

Charlotte Edwards 3 October 2018 (Last Updated November 22nd, 2018 11:31)

Professor Donna Strickland from the University of Waterloo in Canada has been announced as one of the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics. This makes her the first woman in 55 years to win the award.

First woman in 55 years wins Physics Nobel Prize with laser tech
Donna Strickland won the Noble Prize for her inventions in the field of laser physics. Credit: Peter Lee/Waterloo Region Record.

Professor Donna Strickland from the University of Waterloo in Canada has been announced as one of the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics. This makes her the first woman in 55 years to win the award.

During an interview, Strickland told The Globe and Mail: “We need to celebrate women physicists because we’re out there, and hopefully in time it’ll start to move forward at a faster rate.”

Strickland is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and will share her half of the $1.4m prize money with French laser physicist Dr Gérard Mourou. US physicist Arthur Ashkin was awarded the other half.

Mourou and Strickland developed a technique called Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA) which enabled the creation of the shortest and most intense laser pulses of all time. This technique has since been used in laser therapy targeting cancer cells and is relied upon millions of times a year during corrective laser eye surgeries.

Their revolutionary article about the CPA laser technique was published in 1985 and was the foundation of Strickland’s doctoral thesis.

When the award winners were announced, University of Waterloo president and vice chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur said: “This is a tremendous day for Professor Strickland and needless to say a tremendous day for the University of Waterloo. This is Waterloo’s first Nobel laureate and the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics in 55 years.”

University of Waterloo vice president of research Charmaine Dean added: “Donna Strickland exemplifies research excellence at Waterloo. Her ground-breaking work is a testament to the importance of fundamental research as it has established the foundation for laser-based technologies that we see today from micromachining to laser eye surgery.”

The award was given just days after Italian physicist Professor Alessandro Strumia was suspended from CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, because he said during a workshop that physics was “invented by men”.