A University of Rochester graduate and a former faculty member have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for work they undertook at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

Photo credit: University of Rochester

Donna Strickland, who received her doctorate in optics from Rochester in 1989 and is now a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, and Gérard Mourou, a former engineering professor and scientist at LLE and currently a professor at the École Polytechnique in France, were recognized for their work to develop lasers as a high-powered tool that ultimately opened the door to new medical, scientific, and commercial applications. Known as “chirped-pulse amplification,” or CPA, the work was the basis of Strickland’s PhD dissertation at Rochester.

Strickland is only the third woman to receive the prize in physics, joining Marie Curie (1903) and Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1963). She is the first woman laureate in Rochester’s history.

“We need to celebrate women physicists because we’re out there,” Strickland said. “I am honored to be one of those women.”

Mike Campbell, director of the LLE, said Strickland and Mourou have helped shape the direction of research in high-powered lasers of the kind housed at the Laser Lab.

“The development of chirped-pulse amplification by Gérard and Donna has created numerous new applications in science and industry and has catalyzed research around the world in high peak-power lasers,” he said. “The research that led to the Nobel was conducted at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics and highlights the quality and innovation that has long characterized the University’s contributions to optics and laser science.

Created in 1970 at UR, the LLE is recognized as a world leader in an effort to investigate whether powerful lasers can compress atoms to induce nuclear fusion and as a leading center for the study of high-energy-density physics, an exploration of matter under pressures that can only be found in stars and in large planets.

As a result of federal and state support, the LLE has attracted more than $2.3 billion since its inception to support cutting-edge research—including support for Strickland and Mourou’s work.