Ottawa celebrates physicist Donna Strickland

Friday, March 1, 2019

Parliament Hill in Ottawa

There is much going on in the nation’s capital, but people on Parliament Hill took time this week to honour an esteemed Canadian, Canada’s newest Nobel laureate. Donna Strickland, a professor of physics at Waterloo, received a wide and warm welcome in Ottawa Tuesday, from Rideau Hall to the House of Commons, and including a reception celebrating her achievement. Strickland won the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 for developing chirped pulse amplification.

Just in advance of the daily question period in the House of Commons, Raj Saini, MP for Kitchener Centre, drew members’ attention to Strickland, who was seated in the Speaker’s gallery. His remarks drew a standing ovation, as did those of Hon. Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House, who acknowledged Strickland at the end of question period.

“She’s an incredible role model for young people, particularly young women across the country who aspire to enter the STEM fields,” said Saini.

Strickland later gave a laser demonstration in the office of the prime minister to middle-school students who won science fairs in their regions. They talked to Strickland about their projects and their interest in science, and the Nobel laureate shared experiences from her career as a scientist.

The Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Hon. Bardish Chagger, Government House Leader, were also present. With Strickland at his side, the Prime Minister addressed members of the Ottawa press gallery.

“We know the pace of change around us, the world is evolving so quickly in terms of innovation, in terms of technology, what our workplaces are looking like, what our homes are going to be looking like in the coming years. We need to make sure Canadians understand that investing in science and drawing on science is an essential part of building that future,” the PM told reporters.

Strickland’s tour of the national capital included a luncheon at Rideau Hall to meet with another notable Canadian scientist: Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette. Before becoming Canada’s 29th Governor General, Her Excellency worked as an astronaut and an engineer.

During their visit in the official residence of the Queen’s representative in Canada, the two discussed the importance of science for society and the need for increased scientific literacy.

The day capped off with a celebration in Strickland’s honour. President Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor at the University of Waterloo spoke of the pride and impact that professor Strickland was creating for Canada and the world. Among the attendees at the event was Rt. Hon. David Johnston, the former Governor General of Canada who became president of Waterloo a couple of years after Strickland joined the University. Also in attendance were ministers, MPs senators, scientists and other public officials.