Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded to Waterloo Professor Donna Strickland

Selina Hsu - 1A Mechatronics Engineering
Posted on: October 17, 2018

On October 2, 2018, the Waterloo community was abuzz with the news of Donna Strickland, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, who had just been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. She shares the $1.4 million prize with laser physicist Gérard Mourou, currently at the École Polytechnique in France, who worked with Strickland as her thesis advisor during her time at the University of Rochester.

They were awarded the Nobel for their work with lasers—specifically chirped pulse amplification (CPA). CPA was originally invented in 1960 for use with radar, but Strickland and Mourou began applying it to lasers in the 1980s. They made significant advancements in laser technology and helped to expand it into a wide variety of applications. Through stretching, amplifying, and compressing the light, they developed lasers that could handle more precision, shorter pulses, and higher intensities without causing damage.

Strickland is the third woman in history to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, joining the ranks of Marie Curie and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, a German-American physicist who worked on the nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus, and whose work is cited in Strickland’s thesis. In a telephone interview with the Royal Swedish Academy, Strickland expressed her appreciation for Curie and Goeppert-Mayer for working as physicists in an era when women scientists couldn’t even get paid positions.


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