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Canadian Scientist Shares Nobel Prize For Physics

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Dr. Donna Strickland in 2013. Image: The Optical Society.

Dr. Donna Strickland, a Canadian scientist, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for physics. Physics is a type of science.

The Nobel Prize is one of the biggest prizes in the world.

Dr. Strickland will share the prize with Dr. Gérard Mourou of France and Dr. Arthur Ashkin of the United States.

All three scientists won for their work creating tiny (miniature) tools using lasers.

The prize is $1.28 million. It will be divided among the three scientists. Half the money will go to Dr. Ashkin. Dr. Strickland and Dr. Mourou will share the other half.

Dr. Strickland and Dr. Mourou worked together to develop a way to create a laser that works in very short, fast and powerful bursts, or pulses that are called chirped pulse amplification (CPA).

Dr. Gérard Mourou. Image: Ecole polytechnique

CPA has many uses in medicine and manufacturing (making things). For example, the pulses drill very tiny holes in things. It can also shape glass, like the glass used for cell phone screens. CPA is also used for laser eye surgery and to treat some types of cancer.

Dr. Ashkin created “tweezers” that help eye doctors hold microscopic objects – like cells and atoms. (Microscopic means they are so small you can only see them with a microscope.)

Dr. Strickland is 59 years old. She was born in Guelph, Ontario in Canada. She is now an associate professor of physics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

She and Dr. Mourou developed CPA when she was a student and he was a teacher, in the 1980s. The two worked for about four years to create CPA.

Dr. Strickland said it was hard work, but “it was just a fun thing to do, and so I enjoyed putting many hours into it.”

She is the third woman to win the prize for physics since the award was created in 1901.

Marie Curie won in 1903 for her work with radiation, and Maria Goeppert Mayer won in 1963 for her work with atoms.

At a press conference after the award was announced, a student asked Dr. Strickland if she had any advice for young female scientists. Dr. Strickland said,

If somebody says something you don’t believe, just think that they’re wrong and you’re right, and keep going. That’s pretty much the way I always think.

The Nobel Prize is awarded each year for the biggest and best successes in many different areas including physics, chemistry, literature and peace. It was created by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish business tycoon. Thirteen other Canadians have won the Nobel Prize.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: SEEING YOURSELF IN THE NEWS, SEEING POSSIBILITIES (AND SCIENCE!)

Related Links

Excellent article about Donna Strickland on the website A Mighty Girl. It includes a link to a telephone interview with Strickland.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Dr. Strickland gave the following advice for young, female students: “If somebody says something you don’t believe, just think that they’re wrong and you’re right, and keep going. That’s pretty much the way I always think.” What do you think of this advice? Do you agree with Dr. Strickland’s perspective?

Reading Prompt: Extending Understanding
Dr. Strickland and Dr. Mourou worked for approximately 4 years to develop the CPA. When asked about this time, she explained that they worked very hard because “it was just a fun thing to do, and so I enjoyed putting many hours into it.” In your opinion, how important is it to feel passion, curiosity and fun in work?

Junior
Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Intermediate
Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Language Feature: Sentence Length
Sometimes when subjects are complicated, writing about the subjects can include very long, difficult to understand sentences. The journalist for this article, Monique Conrod, did the opposite. Most of this article includes short sentences. Explain how this helps you to better understand the content in the article.