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Science

2 former University of Rochester scientists share the Nobel Prize in Physics

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(Waterloo Region Record photo / Peter Lee)
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Donna Stickland ’89 (PhD) is the first woman in 55 years to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

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

Half the $1 million prize goes  to Arthur Ashkin of the United States and the other half will be shared by Gerard Mourou of France and Canada's Donna Strickland. 

Both Mourou and Strickland have connections to the University of Rochester’s  Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

Strickland got her doctorate at UR in 1989 and Mourou is a former optics professor and scientist there.

Mike Campbell is currently the Director of the Laser Lab and knows both of the Nobel winners quite well.

He says the focus the Nobel Prize brings to the university’s lab will enhance its already solid reputation.

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Credit University of Rochester
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Gerard Mourou, in a 1987 photograph from the Laboratory for Laser Energetics. Mourou’s work at Rochester has helped shape the direction of research in high-powered lasers.

“This just reinforces how important it is to have these type of institutions in the scientific infrastructure of the country; it’s going to help us continue to recruit first quality students and employees and it shows, I think the impact of the research that’s done at the university,” he told WXXI News.

Strickland is only the third woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physics and Campbell says her being part of this award helps emphasize the importance of diversity in the sciences.

“We’re going out of our way to try and increase the diversity at the laboratory… so I couldn’t be happier about that, I think that’s an exclamation point on top of this.”

Strickland told the Associated Press that her first thought on hearing she'd won the physics prize was ``it's crazy.'' 

Speaking by phone 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.'' 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.