University of Waterloo prof awarded Nobel Prize for physics

Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland Win 2018 Nobel Prize In Physics For Laser Inventions

Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland win physics Nobel

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday chose to award the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics to Arthur Ashkin (US) as well as jointly to Gerard Mourou (US) and Donna Strickland (Canada).

In doing so, he invented the optical tweezers that are today used to grab particles, atoms, viruses and living cells with their laser-based pincers. The other half was awarded to USA physicist Arthur Ashkin. By 1987 he had used the tweezers to capture bacteria, a technique now commonly used to study living systems, including to study the "biological motors" that move molecules within a cell as well as cells themselves. When Göran Hansson, who announced the prize and is the secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, reached him by phone and asked if he could speak to reporters, Ashkin said he was too busy with his latest paper.

"We need to celebrate women physicists because they're out there".

A woman has won the Nobel Prize in physics for the third time in the prestigious awards' 117-year history.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated that Mourou and Strickland paved the way toward the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind.

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When a laser pulse is compressed in time and becomes shorter, more light is packed into a small space.

Students have historically not been recognized by the Nobel Committee, something that critics say overlooks the work done by young scientists who are more frequently women and underrepresented minorities.

Her former PhD adviser, Dr Mourou, said he found it hard to describe his emotions at winning the Nobel Prize.

Before Strickland and Mourou's pioneering work, the peak power of laser pulses was limited because, when cranked up to high intensities, they would destroy the material used for amplifying its energy.

That invention has a variety of applications, including corrective laser eye surgery.

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Chirped pulse amplification stretches, intensifies, and then compresses light for an ultra-short high intensity laser pulse.

"The most fun part of my day is when I get to play with my lasers", she told The Record in 2010.

Strickland is the first female Nobel laureate in any field in three years.

The Nobel prizes have always been dominated by male scientists, and none more so than physics.

The inventions by the three scientists date back to the mid-1980s and over the years they have revolutionized laser physics.

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One of them, Arthur Ashkin of Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, entered the Nobel record books by becoming the oldest laureate at age 96.

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