Donna Theo Strickland is a Canadian Physicist who is a pioneer in the field of lasers. She is now only the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, making it 55 years since the last winner.
She shares her win with her former Ph.D. advisor Gerard Mourou and Arthur Ashkin for their work on laser physics. The technique they developed together is called chirped pulse amplification. It is used for producing ultrashort pulses of very high intensity and is useful in laser micromachining, surgery, medicine and in fundamental science studies.
Former winners of the prize include Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963.
Dr. Strickland describes her research as “fun” and has spent much of her life studying and teaching physics.
The scientist, who was born in 1959 in Guelph, Ontario, received her first degree in the field of physics in 1981 and graduated from McMaster University. She then studied optics at the University of Rochester, in New York state, working towards her Ph.D. under Mr. Mourou.
Dr. Strickland is now an associate professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of Waterloo.
Pioneering Laser Technology
Dr. Ashkin developed a laser technique described as optical tweezers, which is used to study the biological systems.
Dr. Mourou and Dr. Strickland have now paved the way for the shortest and most intense laser pulses to be ever created. They have found uses in laser therapy targeting cancer and in the millions of corrective laser eye surgeries which are performed each year.
The Nobel Prize will be just the latest recognition Dr. Strickland has received for her work.
She has received Ontario’s Premier’s Research Excellence Award in 1999 and she was also the recipient of the Cottrell Scholars Award in 2000, which is given to scholars who are recognized for their research and academic leadership.
She was named a fellow of the Optical Society of America in 2008 for her breaking work in the field of ultrafast laser and optical science.
Dr. Strickland has said she enjoys pushing the boundaries of what lasers can do.