Donna Strickland
Strickland during Nobel press conference in Stockholm, December 2018
Strickland in 2018
Donna Theo Strickland

(1959-05-27) 27 May 1959 (age 65)
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
SpouseDoug Dykaar
AwardsNobel Prize (2018)
Scholarly background
Alma mater
ThesisDevelopment of an Ultra-Bright Laser and an Application to Multi-photon Ionization (1988)
Doctoral advisorGérard Mourou
Scholarly work
Main interests

Donna Theo Strickland CC FRS FRSC HonFInstP (born 27 May 1959)[1][2][3] is a Canadian optical physicist and pioneer in the field of pulsed lasers. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, together with Gérard Mourou, for the practical implementation of chirped pulse amplification.[4] She is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.[5]

She served as fellow, vice president, and president of Optica (formerly OSA), and is currently chair of its Presidential Advisory Committee. In 2018, she was listed as one of BBC's 100 Women.[6]

Early life and education

Strickland was born on 27 May 1959, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada to Edith J. (née Ranney), an English teacher,[7] and Lloyd Strickland, an electrical engineer.[1] After graduating from Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, she decided to attend McMaster University because its engineering physics program included lasers and electro-optics, areas of particular interest to her.[7] At McMaster, she was one of three women in a class of twenty-five. Strickland graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in engineering physics in 1981.[8]

Strickland studied for her graduate degree in The Institute of Optics,[9] receiving a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Rochester in 1989.[10][11] She conducted her doctoral research at the associated Laboratory for Laser Energetics, supervised by Gérard Mourou.[12] Strickland and Mourou worked to develop an experimental setup that could raise the peak power of laser pulses, to overcome a limitation, that when the maximal intensity of laser pulses reached gigawatts per square centimetre, self-focusing of the pulses severely damaged the amplifying part of the laser. Their 1985 technique of chirped pulse amplification stretched out each laser pulse both spectrally and in time before amplifying it, then compressed each pulse back to its original duration, generating ultrashort optical pulses of terawatt to petawatt intensity.[1] Using chirped pulse amplification allowed smaller high-power laser systems to be built on a typical laboratory optical table, as "table-top terawatt lasers".[12] The work received the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.[13]

Career and research

Strickland's ultrafast laser group at the University of Waterloo in 2017

From 1988 to 1991, Strickland was a research associate at the National Research Council of Canada, where she worked with Paul Corkum in the Ultrafast Phenomena Section, which had the distinction at that time of having produced the most powerful short-pulse laser in the world.[14] She worked in the laser division of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1991 to 1992 and joined the technical staff of Princeton University's Advanced Technology Center for Photonics and Opto-electronic Materials in 1992. She joined the University of Waterloo in 1997 as an assistant professor.[10] She became the first full-time female professor in physics at the University of Waterloo.[15] Strickland is currently a professor, leading an ultrafast laser group that develops high-intensity laser systems for nonlinear optics investigations.[5] She has described herself as a "laser jock":[13]

I think it's because we thought we were good with our hands. As an experimentalist, you need to understand the physics, but you also need to be able to actually make something work, and the lasers were very finicky in those days.[7]

Strickland's recent work has focused on pushing the boundaries of ultrafast optical science to new wavelength ranges such as the mid-infrared and the ultraviolet, using techniques such as two-colour or multi-frequency methods, as well as Raman generation.[5] She is also working on the role of high-power lasers in the microcrystalline lens of the human eye, during the process of micromachining of the eye lens to cure presbyopia.[5]

Strickland became a fellow of Optica[a] in 2008. She served as its vice president and president in 2011 and 2013 respectively, and was a topical editor of its journal Optics Letters from 2004 to 2010.[5][16] She is currently the chair of Optica's Presidential Advisory Committee.[17] She is a member of and previously served as a board member and Director of Academic Affairs for the Canadian Association of Physicists.[18][19]

Awards and recognition

Strickland, 2016

Nobel Prize

On 2 October 2018, Strickland was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for her work on chirped pulse amplification with her doctoral adviser Gérard Mourou. Arthur Ashkin received the other half of the prize for unrelated work on optical tweezers. She became the third woman ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, after Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963.[5][32]

Strickland and Mourou published their pioneering work "Compression of amplified chirped optical pulses" in 1985, while Strickland was still a doctoral student under Mourou.[b] Their invention of chirped pulse amplification for lasers at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Rochester[12] led to the development of the field of high-intensity ultrashort pulses of light beams. Because the ultrabrief and ultrasharp light beams are capable of making extremely precise cuts, the technique is used in laser micromachining, laser surgery, medicine, fundamental science studies, and other applications. It has enabled doctors to perform millions of corrective laser eye surgeries.[34] She said that after developing the technique they knew it would be a significant discovery.[13]

When she received the Nobel Prize, many commentators were surprised that she had not reached the rank of full professor. In response, Strickland said that she had "never applied" for a professorship;[35] "it doesn't carry necessarily a pay raise… I never filled out the paper work… I do what I want to do and that wasn't worth doing."[7] Strickland had not applied to be a full professor prior to her Nobel prize, but in October 2018, she told the BBC that she had subsequently applied and was promoted to full professorship at the University of Waterloo.[36]

Order of Canada

Strickland was appointed as a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2019, one of Canada's highest civilian honours.[25]

Personal life

Strickland is married to Douglas Dykaar, who received a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Rochester.[8][37] They have two children:[8] Hannah, a graduate student in astrophysics at the University of Toronto,[15] and Adam, who is studying comedy at Humber College.[38] Strickland is an active member of the United Church of Canada.[39]

Selected publications

See also


  1. ^ Then known as Optical Society of America (OSA).
  2. ^ Strickland attempted to add Steve Williamson as an author of the article, but Williamson removed the name as "he hadn't done enough".[7][33]


  1. ^ a b c Strickland, Donna Theo (1988). Development of an ultra-bright laser and an application to multi-photon ionization (PDF) (PhD). University of Rochester. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 July 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  2. ^ Lindinger, Manfred (2 October 2018). "Eine Zange aus lauter Licht". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Donna Strickland – Facts – 2018". Nobel Foundation. 6 October 2018. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  4. ^ Sample, Ian; Davis, Nicola (2 October 2018). "Physics Nobel prize won by Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Donna Strickland". University of Waterloo. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  6. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2018: Who is on the list?". BBC News. 19 November 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Booth, Laura (3 October 2018). "Scientist caught in a Nobel whirlwind". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Semeniuk, Ivan (2 October 2018). "Canada's newest Nobel Prize winner, Donna Strickland, 'just wanted to do something fun'". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  9. ^ Mourou, Gérard (2004). "53. The dawn of ultrafast science and technology at the University of Rochester" (PDF). In Stroud, Carlos (ed.). A Jewel in the Crown: 75th Anniversary Essays of The Institute of Optics of the University of Rochester. Rochester, NY: Meliora Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-1580461627. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 October 2018. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d "Biographies – Donna T. Strickland". The Optical Society. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Donna Strickland". Education Program for Photonics Professionals. University of Waterloo. 11 September 2012. Archived from the original on 2 October 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  12. ^ a b c Valich, Lindsey (2 October 2018). "Rochester breakthrough in laser science earns Nobel Prize". Newscenter. University of Rochester. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d Murphy, Jessica (2 October 2018). "Donna Strickland: The 'laser jock' Nobel prize winner". BBC News. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  14. ^ Page, Shelley (19 October 1990). "Laser lab makes short work of super beam". Ottawa Citizen.
  15. ^ a b Nusca, Andrew (17 October 2018). "Nobel Laureate Donna Strickland: Yes, Women Are Joining Physics. But We've Got Work to Do". Fortune. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou, and Donna Strickland Awarded 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics". The Optical Society. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  17. ^ "Standing and Ad Hoc Committees". The Optical Society. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  18. ^ "News Flash: Canadian physicist, Donna Strickland, co-recipient of 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics". Canadian Association of Physicists. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  19. ^ McBride, Jason (20 October 2018). "Nobel laureate Donna Strickland: 'I see myself as a scientist, not a woman in science'". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Past Sloan Fellows". Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Archived from the original on 6 November 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  21. ^ "Cottrell Scholars" (PDF). Research Corporation for Science Advancement. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  22. ^ "2008 OSA Fellows". The Optical Society. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  23. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  24. ^ "2019 Summit Highlights Photo". Dr. Frances H. Arnold, the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, presents the Golden Plate Award to Dr. Donna Strickland, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, at the 2019 International Achievement Summit in New York City.
  25. ^ a b Andrew-Gee, Eric. "Order of Canada: Stephen Harper, Donna Strickland, Xavier Dolan among new appointments". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  26. ^ "Professor Donna Strickland awarded CAE Honorary Fellowship" (PDF). 21 June 2019.
  27. ^ "Four CAP members appointed Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC)". Canadian Association of Physicists. 10 October 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  28. ^ "2020 NAS Election". National Academy of Sciences. 27 April 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  29. ^ "Pope appoints new member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences – Vatican News". 2 August 2021. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  30. ^ "La France décore Donna Strickland". La France au Canada/France in Canada (in French). Retrieved 19 November 2022.
  31. ^ "Optica". Optica Honorary Members.
  32. ^ Rincon, Paul (2 October 2018). "First woman Physics Nobel winner in 55 years". BBC News. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  33. ^ Strickland, Donna; Mourou, Gerard (15 October 1985). "Compression of amplified chirped optical pulses". Optics Communications. 55 (6): 447–449. Bibcode:1985OptCo..55..447S. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/0030-4018(85)90151-8. ISSN 0030-4018.
  34. ^ "'Optical Tweezers' and Tools Used for Laser Eye Surgery Snag Physics Nobel". Scientific American. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  35. ^ Crowe, Cailin (2 October 2018). "'I Never Applied': Nobel Winner Explains Associate-Professor Status, but Critics Still See Steeper Slope for Women". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  36. ^ "Nobel laureate Donna Strickland is now full professor". Waterloo Region Record. 25 October 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  37. ^ Dykaar, Doug. "Doug Dykaar". LinkedIn.
  38. ^ "Nobel laureate Donna Strickland: 'I see myself as a scientist, not a woman in science'". The Guardian. 20 October 2018. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  39. ^ Mitchell, Alanna "How This Nobel Prize Winner Balances Physics And Faith", Broadview, May 2019
Professional and academic associations Preceded byTony Heinz President of The Optical Society 2013 Succeeded byPhilip H. Bucksbaum Awards Preceded byRainer Weiss Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 Succeeded byJim Peebles Preceded byBarry Barish Succeeded byMichel Mayor Preceded byKip Thorne Succeeded byDidier Queloz