Canadian among trio awarded Nobel Prize in Physics

Minnie Murray
October 2, 2018

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

Strickland's award was the first Nobel Prize in physics to go to a woman since 1963, when it was won by Maria Goeppert-Mayer; the only other woman to win for physics was Marie Curie in 1903. CPA has heralded the field of attosecond physics, where extremely short and powerful laser pulses are used to take snapshots of chemical reactions or the behavior of particles in extreme electric field conditions.

Mourou and Strickland, who share the other half of the prize, were recognized for their breakthroughs in creating "high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses", or beams of light strong enough to perform eye surgeries and precise laser machining.

The 59-year-old Guelph, Ont., native made the discovery while completing her PhD at the University of Rochester in NY and will share half of the US$1.01-million prize with her doctoral adviser, French physicist Gerard Mourou. The only other female victor is famed historical physicist Marie Curie.

The award is worth a total of nine million Swedish kronor (£770,686; $998,618).

Ideal timing: Strickland's win comes just days after CERN physicist Alessandro Strumia made controversial and widely-reported comments at a conference claiming that men are better at physics. "And I'm so happy Art Ashkin also won".

We've got more newsletters we think you'll find interesting. They paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind. This dramatically increases the intensity of the pulse. "This new tool allowed Ashkin to realize an old dream of science-fiction - using the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

It recognises their discoveries in the field of laser physics - with Dr Ashkin developing a laser technique described as "optical tweezers" that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them. Although Ashkin, in the mid 1980s, originally meant to use the technique to manipulate atoms, he soon moved onto larger particles and then biological objects, including viruses and living cells. The technique is now used widely to study the machinery of life.

Michael Moloney, CEO of the American Institute of Physics, praised all the laureates.

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