Strickland becomes the third female Physics Nobelist in history

Canadian Donna Strickland, an associate physics professor at the University of Waterloo, attends a press conference after being awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics, in Waterloo, Canada, 02 October 2018. Strickland was awarded the prize alongside American and French scientists for their work in laser physics. EPA-EFE/WARREN TODA

Strickland becomes the third female Physics Nobelist in history


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The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics recognizes “optical tweezers” and a “method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses,” the Royal Swedish Academy announced on Tuesday.

One of three women

Whilst these terms mean little in layman’s terms, everyone can understand that this is the first Nobel Prize in physics awarded to a woman since 1963.

This year’s prize will be shared by three researchers, including Canada’s Donna Strickland. The last woman to be awarded the prestigious title was in 1963. Strickland is one of three. The first woman to receive the honour was the Polish-born Marie-Curie in 1903, followed by the German-born Maria-Coeppert Mayer in 1963.

Strickland will be sharing the title with the US researcher Arthur Ashkin and the French Gerard Mourou.

The Significance of the Discoveries

Dr Ashkin developed a technique described as “optical tweezers,” used to study biological systems. Building on that technique, Drs Mourou and Strickland developed a specialised technique called Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA) that can be used in cancer therapy and eye-surgery.

It is the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created. Compressed pulses emit more light on a smaller surface, increasing the intensity of the pulse.

The award comes two days after Cern scientists Prof Alessandro Strumia of Pisa University said that “physics was invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation,” triggering the wrath of the scientific community. In a statement to the BBC, Dr Strickland called Professor’s Strumia’s comments “silly.”

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