First Women In 55 Years To Win Nobel Physics Prize, Donna Strickland

A Canadian physics, Donna Strickland, is being honored with a Nobel physics prize along with Gérard Mourou and Arthur Ashkin. On Tuesday, Strickland became the first woman to be honored with this award in 55 years and only the third woman all together, with Maria Goeppert-Mayer winning in 1963 for her work in discovering nuclear structure. The first woman was Marie Curie, back in 1903.

Strickland and Mourou worked together to develop intense and short optical pulses, which have been shown to have medical applications. Strickland and Mouror’s short and intense laser pulses, “chirped pulse amplification,” can cut or drill holes in a precise manner, in living matter. This has led to technology that allows for corrective eye surgeries.

Ashkin, who they share the award with, is being honored for his development of “optical tweezers.” These tweezers can grab any tiny particle without causing damage. This includes bacteria, viruses, and other living cells.

With this award comes a 9 million kronor prize (about $1 million,) half of which goes to Ashkin and the other half being split between Strickland and Mourou.

This is important strides for women’s history, as climb the ranks . Women make up about half of the world’s population, but they do not make up half of the awards given out. As most of the laureates are men, we take a closer look at why this is the case.

Going back 20-30 years there were less women who work in scientific, male dominated fields. It was much harder for women to find work and be taken serious. As most laureates seen today are older, the increases of women in the scientific field toady have yet to be seen as laureates. We can only hope that, with time this will increase.

Women are in the science field, and have not gotten enough recognition. History has shown the women will often lose their place in history to men, example Rosalind Franklin. Her x-ray crystallography provided an image of DNA, which led Francis Crick and James Watson to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology for their double helix model of DNA.   It shows younger generations that, even as a woman, you can be anything you set your mind to.

Donna Strickland has made strides that help show that women are in fact involved in these fields and deserve equal recognition for  their work.

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