The Holy Father has appointed Canadian Professor Donna Theo Strickland, Nobel Prize winner for physics in 2018, lecturer in optical physics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Waterloo, Canada, as an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Professor Donna Theo Strickland was born on May 27, 1959, in Guelph, Canada. Her mother was an English teacher and her father was an electrical engineer. She confesses that in high school she was proficient in only two subjects: math and physics. She seems to have following her own advice: “Do what you love and what you think you are good at.”
In her Nobel Prize profile, she says she thinks lasers are cool. With enthusiasm for the field and “very, very hard” work, she found a way to create high-intensity laser pulses. This technique, chirped pulse amplification or CPA, was described in Strickland’s very first scientific paper, and it led to her 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. More importantly, it began a long career in which, as she has put it, “I get to play with high-intensity lasers.”
She graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and was awarded a doctorate in physics, specializing in optics, from Rochester University, United States of America. In 2018, Professor Strickland and Professor Gérard Mourou were awarded the Nobel Prize for the invention of chirped pulse amplification for lasers in 1985.
Strickland was a research associate at the National Research Council Canada, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a member of technical staff at Princeton University. In 1997, she joined the University of Waterloo, where her ultrafast laser group develops high-intensity laser systems for nonlinear optics investigations. She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award, and a Cottrell Scholar Award. She served as the president of the Optical Society (OSA) in 2013 and is a fellow of OSA, the Royal Society of Canada, and SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics). Strickland is an honorary fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering as well as the Institute of Physics. She received the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement and holds numerous honorary doctorates.