Waterloo Nobel Laureate Donna Strickland receives top honours from Canada and France

Friday, November 25, 2022

Waterloo's Nobel Laureate Donna Strickland received top honours from Canada and France last week in Ottawa for her contributions to science. She was appointed the Companion of the Order of Canada medal and named a Knight of the Legion of Honour.

Donna Strickland is a global giant in the field of physics and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. She is a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, with Gérard Mourou, her doctoral supervisor at the time.

Strickland developed a technique called "chirped pulse amplification" that amplify beams without damaging the laser amplifier in the process. They realized that by stretching, amplifying, and then compressing the beams, they could boost the intensity of the light dramatically. It allowed more light to packed into a shorter time, increasing the intensity of the pulse, while allowing laser beams to cut into matter with extreme precision.

Chirped pulse amplification has revolutionized the use of high-intensity laser physics and presents tremendous possibilities both for scientists and industry leader. Laser tools based on chirped pulse amplification are now employed in scientific, industrial, medical, energy, military and security applications.

Companion of the Order of Canada

Strickland was given the award by the 27th governor general of Canada, The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, who is currently the Chancellor for United College. The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, invested 5 Companions, 12 Officers and 31 Members during a ceremony at Rideau Hall on November 17th.

Canada's current Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, was ill and unable to preside over the ceremony. 

Donna Strickland wearing medal with the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean

L-R: Companion of the Order of Canada Donna Strickland and the 27th governor general of Canada, The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean. Credit: MCpl Anis Assari, Rideau Hall.

Stickland was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest level, for her contributions to optical physics and for her innovative developments in ultra-fast optical science. The appointment was announced in December 2019 but Strickland did not receive her medal until last week due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"The contributions of these trailblazers are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country. Their grit and passion inspire us, teach us and show us the way forward. They exemplify the Order’s motto: DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (They desire a better country)."

The Order of Canada is one of our country’s highest honours and was established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Appointments recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. There are three levels to the Order: Companion, Officer and Member. 

More than 7,600 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order. These appointments are made on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada.

Knight of the Legion of Honour

The Ambassador of France to Canada, Mr. Michel Miraillet presented Strickland with the insignia of Knight of the Legion of Honour at the French Embassy. It is France's highest honour and was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. It rewards outstanding merit acquired in the service of France. 

French Ambassador Mr. Michel Miraillet speaking at the podium as Donna Strickland looks on.

Ambassador of France to Canada, Mr. Michel Miraillet and Waterloo's Dr. Donna Strickland. Credit: French Embassy in Ottawa.

This award symbolizes the French Republic’s recognition of Strickland’s exceptional career, her commitment to scientific culture, but also the recognition of an example of the many fruitful scientific partnerships between France and Canada, in her exceptional work with the French Gérard Mourou.

"When it comes to science, I believe our two countries share a deep commitment to a variety of topics," said Ambassador Michel Miraillet. "The first one – and the most important one – is the dedication to ethical, globalized and open science. Let’s remind us that France and Canada scientific papers are produced collectively, involving multiple international partners. The outstanding work made by Gérard Mourou and yourself is only an example of what French-Canadian research has output. I am truly convinced there will be more to come, as much as I am dedicated to make it happen."

Congratulations Donna!

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