Three laser scientists win Nobel Prize for Physics


NEW YORK-Scientists from the United States, Canada and France won the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for revolutionizing the use of lasers in research, finding ways to make them deliver more powerful flashes of light and even to act like tiny tweezers.

At 96, Ashkin is the oldest ever Nobel prize victor, but he is still busy with fresh research.

The awarding of the prize to Strickland, a Canadian scientist at the University of Waterloo, has ended a drought for women winning any of the prestigious prizes.

The last woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics, however, was Maria Goeppert Mayer, who shared half of the prize in 1963 with Hans Jensen, for their 1949 work that described how the protons and neutrons in an atom's nucleus are arranged in "shells" of different energy levels, similar to how the electrons that "orbit" the nucleus are arranged.

The breakthrough came with the work of prizewinners Mr Mourou and Ms Strickland, he said.

Mourou had been Strickland's PhD supervisor and said he was thrilled at the win. They are so short that we can time them as never before. "Men have to get on board, and the majority of men are absolutely on board, so sometimes it's just inertia". "I'm honoured to be one of those women". "I think it's wonderful when people plow through".

Strickland took part in the announcement today, and when asked about winning the award she told reporters, "First of all, you have to think it's insane, so that was my first thought".

Strickland's words moved Kristi Webb, a physics graduate student, to tears. "I'm honored to be one of those women". "This was at the very beginning of her career, but she's done a million things since then and that's the dream".

Mourou, born in 1944 in Albertville, France and Strickland, born 1959 in Guelph, Canada, have worked together since 1985, when they published a revolutionary article that would become the basis of Strickland's thesis.

"I told her she doesn't have to submit a very long CV, one line will be sufficient", he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by humankind.

In a statement, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) offered its congratulations to all the winners, adding: "The countless applications made possible by their work, like laser eye surgery, high-power pettawat lasers, and the ability to trap and study individual viruses and bacteria, only promise to increase going forward". "We did seem to be on the cutting edge of laser science, and I think we were all aware of that", she says. They developed a technique called Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA).

The University of Waterloo called Strickland's win a "tremendous day" for the school and the campus was abuzz with the news. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences had said previous year it would seek to more actively encourage nominations of women researchers to begin addressing the imbalance. "This gives a beacon for further conversations about women in science and technology".