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Donna Strickland - Congratulations on Nobel Prize in Physics

Excerpt from Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Donna Strickland - Congratulations on Nobel Prize in Physics

Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to Dr. Donna Strickland, who yesterday received the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics from the King of Sweden, in Stockholm. The pageantry and glamour on that stage were a far cry from room 3407 in Needles Hall at the University of Waterloo, where a few hundred students crammed into the room to watch the proceedings in Stockholm with pride. It was wonderful to watch and support this intimate, youthful event.

You see, in addition to being the third woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in its 117-year history, Ms. Strickland is also professor at the University of Waterloo’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, where she has researched and taught since 1997.

Professor Strickland, who was born in Guelph, is one of three recipients of the prize this year. It was in recognition of research she published in 1985, when she was still a doctoral student at the University of Rochester. It was then that she and her supervisor, one of her co-recipients, discovered chirped pulse amplification. These are high-intensity, short-pulse lasers that have a number of practical purposes, most notably in laser eye surgery.

Honourable senators, you’ll note that, ominously, Professor Strickland wears glasses because, as she puts it, “I have great faith in lasers, but no one’s putting one near my eye.”

I had the pleasure of attending the celebrations in Waterloo yesterday morning, where I was encouraged by the number of women I saw who are studying the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. In 1986, as a physics teacher, I was invited to be part of a small group of women who launched the STEM concept with fellow university professors. Here we are, over 30 years later, and I am thrilled to see someone like Professor Strickland recognized for her work and bringing attention to our community. I have no doubt this award will encourage more women to study and work in these fields.

In addition to the $1.1 million in prize money Professor Strickland now splits with her fellow winners, she will see some other perks when she returns to work in Waterloo shortly. For one, the university has designated a reserved parking spot for Nobel winners on campus — a prize hard to quantify for anyone who studies or works at the university. She also received a promotion in October, from associate professor to full-time professor. At the time Professor Strickland was quick to admit that she had simply never applied for a full-time position, a testament to how humble she really is. Upon hearing this, the university’s president said that her application need only be one line long.

Honourable senators, Professor Strickland and her accomplishments are a reminder of the important role that curiosity and creativity have in our everyday work. I ask that you join me in congratulating her on her brilliant accomplishments and wish her the best in all her future scientific endeavours. Thank you.

Ontario Senator (Waterloo Region)

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