Canadian Donna Strickland third woman to win Nobel physics prize

Nobel Physics Prize Awarded to Trio for Laser Work

When a laser pulse is compressed in time and becomes shorter, more light is packed into a small space.

Their field of work is called laser optics.

Then, along with several colleagues at Bell Laboratories (including future Nobel laureate Steven Chu), Ashkin followed up that work with a design, published in Optics Letters in 1986, for a single-beam optical trap that worked by passing laser light through a microscope objective lens.

Speaking by phone to the academy, a moved Strickland said she was thrilled to receive the Nobel prize that has been the least accessible for women.

"And with me here on podium is, to my right, Professor Olga Botner, the chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics, and on my left side, Professor Mats Larsson, who is the member of the committee and an expert in the field of this year's prize..."

Their technique is now used in corrective eye surgery, among other things.

"Advanced precision instruments are opening up unexplored areas of research and a multitude of industrial and medical applications", the academy said on awarding the nine million Swedish crown ($1 million) prize.

"Obviously we need to celebrate women physicists because we're out there".

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Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences, which chose the winners, described Strickland and Mourou's work as "revolutionary". Strickland is Canadian, Mourou is French and Ashkin is American.

Ashkin's optical tweezers use highly focused beams to grab viruses or other small particles.

Flawless timing: Strickland's win comes just days after CERN physicist Alessandro Strumia made controversial and widely-reported comments at a conference claiming that men are better at physics. Take a short laser pulse, stretch it in time, amplify it and squeeze it together again. Most notably in 1987, Ashkin used the novel tweezers to capture living bacteria without causing harm to them resulting in the tools being widely used in the machinery of life experimentation.

Speaking about being the third woman to ever win the award, she said: "Hopefully in time it will start to move forward at a faster rate".

'At this point [CPA] is used nearly ubiquitously in many different ways, ' said Strickland, who was a PhD student when she made her discoveries, in an interview.

The 96-year-old American scientist became the oldest laureate for any of the prestigious Nobel prizes.

2015 - Takaaki Kajita and Arthur McDonald were awarded the prize the discovery that neutrinos switch between different "flavours". Their joint Nobel represents an extremely rare instance in which a graduate student (as Strickland then was) who does the lion's share of the bench science is honored along with the senior scientist. The economics prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, October 8.

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