It has taken 55 years for a nobel prize in physics to be shared by a woman, three scientists were awarded the top prize for their groundbreaking research into the world of physics. Donna Strickland and Gérard Mourou received half of the award, and the other half went to Arthur Ashkin.
Strickland is the third woman ever to win a nobel prize in Physics, with the first being Marie Curie in 1903 and then Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963. Strickland commented that we need to celebrate more women in physics because they are definitely around, we just need to find them!
When she initially was told about the award she was going to receive, Strickland did not believe the person on the phone telling her. As she promptly said in one of her press reviews at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Sweden:
“First of all, you have to think it’s crazy. So that was my first thought and you do always wonder if it’s real,”
But at the end of the day there really was only Strickland as a candidate for the prize, her achievements this past year in physics have allowed so much to happen. From the University of Waterloo in Canada, she was able to help create the world’s smallest and shortest laser pulses. From this, they were able to invent what is know as chirped pulse amplification. What this does is allows the pulse of light to be stretched, amplified and compressed. All things that allow the pulses of light to be shorter but higher in intensity.
It is a technique that is used by thousands of doctors across the world today, allowing them to complete the most complicated eye surgeries successfully without danger to the patient, something that Strickland is very proud to be a part of.