Canadian physicist Donna Strickland was among three scientists sharing the Nobel Prize for innovations in laser physics.
The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to a trio of scientists early Tuesday morning — including the first woman to earn the coveted title in more than half a century.
Canadian physicist Donna Strickland and French scientist Gérard Mourou shared half of the 2018 prize with Arthur Ashkin of the U.S. for their “groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics,” according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which granted the award. The laureates will share the 9 million Swedish krona prize (or just over $1 million), with half going to Ashkin, and Strickland and Mourouher splitting the other half.
BREAKING NEWS⁰The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the #NobelPrize in Physics 2018 “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” with one half to Arthur Ashkin and the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland. pic.twitter.com/PK08SnUslK
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 2, 2018
Strickland, 59, now at the University of Waterloo in Canada, is the first woman to earn the prize in 55 years, and only the third female physics laureate in the history of the award. The first was physics legend Marie Curie in 1903, and the second was Maria Goeppert-Mayer, whose discoveries about the nuclei of atoms earned her the award in 1963.
Strickland collaborated with Mourou, who was then her graduate school supervisor, while working on her Ph.D. thesis at the University of Rochester in New York to discover how to amplify the intensity of laser light in “the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted. Their groundbreaking research was published in 1985 — and their chirped pulse amplification technique (or CPA) has become the standard for millions of corrective eye surgeries using lasers.
And American physicist Ashkin, 96, is the oldest person to ever receive the physics prize. He worked at the Bell Laboratories in New Jersey to develop optical “tweezers” using laser light to grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells, with his breakthrough coming in 1987.
When asked about being only the third woman to become a Nobel physics laureate during the press conference Tuesday, Strickland responded: “I thought there might have been more but I couldn’t think. Obviously we need to celebrate women physicists because we’re out there. Hopefully it will start to move forward at a faster rate. I’m honored to be one of those women.”
Upon the hearing the news, Donna Strickland said: "I thought there might have been more but I couldn't think. Obviously we need to celebrate women physicists because we're out there. Hopefully it will start to move forward at a faster rate. I'm honoured to be one of those women."
— Nature News & Comment (@NatureNews) October 2, 2018
Women remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs, holding just 24% of them in 2015, and making up only 30% of all STEM degree holders, according to Economics & Statistics Administration, which is under the U.S. Department of Commerce. One in five (20%) of women said gender bias has made it harder for them to succeed in STEM fields, according to a recent Pew report, and 36% of women said sexual harassment is a problem in their STEM workplace.
And only about one in three STEM professionals on TV and film are women, according to new research from the Lyda Hill Foundation, which funds advances in science and nature, and Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University. So Strickland’s Nobel Prize award is priceless in its potential to encourage more women to enter the sciences, as research shows that seeing other women succeeding in STEM fields is key to encouraging girls and women to go into STEM if they see other women doing so.
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