A fitting send-off for Waterloo's first Nobel Prize winner

Friday, November 30, 2018

A group photo of attendees with Donna Strickland and the UW President holding a Congratulations Donna banner.

Yesterday, there was a lively, celebratory energy in the air as hundreds of students, faculty and staff gathered in the Science Teaching Complex to give Professor Donna Strickland a warm send-off celebration before she heads off to Sweden to accept the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Cheery volunteers handed out bags of trail mix labelled with the #UWaterlooProud hashtag. Students, faculty and staff signed their well wishes on an over-sized banner that lined the wall. As Waterloo’s first Nobel Prize winner, Strickland has become a campus (even a national) celebrity—and, deservingly, was greeted as one.

Dean of Science Bob Lemieux kicked off the ceremony and Brian McNamara, Chair of the Physics and Astronomy department, had some words of praise for Strickland. President and Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur also spoke, his words capturing the feeling in the room.

“Science is proud. Waterloo is proud. Canada is proud.”

Hamdullahpur went on to praise Strickland’s dedication to her work, calling her an inspiration to others to “focus on what you love to do and give it everything you have.” The president also acknowledged that this celebration is also for the entire University.

“The campus community deserves to be with her as we send her off to Sweden, and cheer not just for her achievements, but also your future achievements.”

When Professor Strickland took the stage, she joked that she hopes to meet Waterloo’s second Nobel laureate and hopes the University will have the same enthusiasm for that individual. She also had words of advice and inspiration to students.

“Always choose to do what you really want to do,” she said, citing her decision to study at the University of Rochester over other universities because it housed one of only two optics PhD programs.

She also noted that awards and recognition may not come immediately, but that the work should be a reward on its own. She told the crowd how her award-winning paper was not cited in the first five years. 33 years later, that paper is cited 200 times a year, “and the Nobel people now think it’s a big deal.”

To close the ceremony, Professor Strickland was presented with a send-off gift - a parking space outside of the Physics building.

If you missed the celebration, you can still join the festivities by attending the Nobel Prize viewing party on campus on December 10th in the Board and Senate Chambers (room 3407) of Ira Needles Hall or watch the livestream to see Professor Strickland accept her prize live from Sweden.

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