2 of the 3 winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics have UR connections

Oct 2, 2018
Originally published on October 2, 2018 9:19 am

( WXXI News & AP) There are Rochester connections for 2 of the 3 winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics which was announced early Tuesday.

Three scientists from the United States, France and Canada have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for advances in laser physics. 

The Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences on Tuesday awarded half the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize to Arthur Ashkin of the United States and the other half will be shared by Gerard Mourou of France and Canada's Donna Strickland. 

The academy says Ashkin developed ``optical tweezers'' that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them. 

Strickland and Mourou helped develop short and intense laser pulses that have broad industrial and medical applications. 

Strickland received her PhD from the University of Rochester in 1989 and Mourou is a former faculty member and scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics. According to the Optical Society of America, Mourou was the PhD supervisor for Strickland, and they co-invented Chirped Pulse Amplification, which “made it possible to amplify ultra-short pulses to unprecedented levels.”

Strickland and Mourou enabled new studies of matter by allowing scientists to produce more powerful bursts of laser light, an official of the American Institute of Physics says. 

``We needed a new way to create the peak power of laser pulses,'' said Michael Moloney, chief executive officer of the group. The breakthough came with the work of prizewinners Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland, he said. 

While laser eye surgery is the most familiar application of their work, it has also let scientists probe fundamental forces acting within matter at very high temperatures and pressures, Moloney said. 

Noting that Strickland is the first woman in 55 years to win a physics Nobel, Moloney said that gap is ``way too long.'' 

Nobel laureate Donna Strickland says her first thought on hearing she'd won the physics prize was ``it's crazy.'' 

Speaking by phone  to the AP shortly after the announcement was made in Stockholm on Tuesday, Strickland said: ``You do always wonder if it's real.'' 

The Canadian said she was honored to be one of the small number of female winners of the physics Nobel so far.  ``Obviously we need to celebrate women physicists, because we're out there,'' she said. 

Strickland added that ``hopefully in time it'll start to move forward at a faster rate, maybe.''