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UW's Donna Strickland one of three scientists to win Nobel Prize in physics

She is only the third woman to win the prize in physics
Donna Strickland
Donna Strickland is among three scientists who have won the Nobel Prize for work in laser physics. Photo credit: Univerity of Waterloo

A Canadian has professor ended a 55-year drought for female physicists after being awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for physics.

Donna Strickland is only the third woman to ever win the prize for physics.

Strickland of the University of Waterloo has won part of the million-dollar prize, which she shares with Gerard Mourou of France and Arthur Ashkin of the United States.

Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences, which picked the winners, said Strickland and Mourou will receive a quarter of the prize each for their work ``generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses,'' which have become a critical part of corrective eye surgeries amongst other uses.

The academy said their 1985 article on the technique, called chirped pulse amplification or CPA, was ``revolutionary.''

The Guelph-born Strickland, who is an associate professor at Waterloo, told the academy she was left in disbelief when she got the call from Stockholm notifying her of the win, saying she thought it was ``crazy.''

She became emotional when told she was only the third woman to have won the physics prize, the first being Marie Curie in 1903, while Maria Goeppert Mayer won in 1963.

Strickland says she's honoured to be one of those women.

A 2011 profile on the University of Waterloo web site says Strickland described herself as a ``laser jock'' who enjoyed the competitive rush, and was working on creating the shortest laser pulse with the biggest punch.

Mourou had been Strickland's PhD supervisor and said he was thrilled at the win.

Ashkin, of Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, developed ``optical tweezers'' that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them.

Last year's physics prize went to three Americans who used abstruse theory and ingenious equipment design to detect the faint ripples in the universe called gravitational waves.

by Liam Casey


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