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Donna Strickland, a University of Waterloo professor who helped revolutionize laser physics, has been named a winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics.
Strickland, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, shares half the $1.4 million prize with French laser physicist Gérard Mourou. The other half was awarded to U.S. physicist Arthur Ashkin.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated that Mourou and Strickland paved the way toward the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by mankind. Their revolutionary article was published in 1985 and was the foundation of Strickland’s doctoral thesis.
Strickand conducted her Nobel-winning research while a PhD student under Mourou in 1989 at the University of Rochester in New York. The team’s research has a number of applications in industry and medicine.
It was great to have had the opportunity to work with one of the pioneers of ultrafast lasers, Gerard Mourou,” said Strickland. “It was a small community back then. It was a new, burgeoning field. I got to be part of that. It was very exciting."
A Nobel committee member said billions of people make daily use of laser printers and optical scanners and millions undergo laser surgery.
“This is a tremendous day for Professor Strickland and needless to say a tremendous day for the University of Waterloo,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of 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.”
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.”
Charmaine Dean, vice-president research at the University of Waterloo said: “Donna Strickland exemplifies research excellence at Waterloo. Her groundbreaking 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.”