Nobel Prize Winner Donna Strickland visits GCVI
February 15, 2019
GUELPH, Ontario – Students at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute had a special visit from a former student who has been recognized for her groundbreaking work in physics.
On Friday Feb. 15, Nobel Prize winner Donna Strickland visited Guelph CVI to speak to students. Professor Strickland is a Guelph native and attended Victory Public School, Willow Road Public School and GCVI. Currently, Strickland is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo.
In October, Strickland was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for her work in laser physics. Half of the award is shared between Strickland and France’s Gérard Mourou. The other half was awarded to Arthur Ashkin from the United States.
The three were recognized for “groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics.” Strickland and Mourou were specifically honoured for “their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses,” according to information on the Nobel Prize website. Their technique, Chirped Pulse Amplification, is used in a variety of applications, including in corrective laser eye surgery. Professor Strickland is only the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
On Friday, GCVI hosted Professor Strickland at the Guelph high school and held two assemblies so that all students could hear about her time at GCVI, her post-secondary studies, career and the whirlwind experience of receiving the Nobel Prize.
Friday’s event was organized and emceed by GCVI students Bridget and Roscoe, with the assistance of school staff.
Professor Strickland spoke her work in the laser lab, explaining the technique she helped develop. She also answered a number of students’ questions about her experiences at GCVI and beyond. She had always liked physics and math, and being in school. Even as a young student at Victory PS, when learning about what a PhD is, she knew she wanted to be in school for a really long time. In high school, she loved playing in the band, although added that she didn’t play very well. She stressed to students that no matter what field they decide to pursue, learning how to write is important.
She also explained to students the dangers of working in the laser lab and how she would often come up against roadblocks or failures, but when that would happen, she would continue on. Throughout the talk, Strickland drew a few good laughs from the crowd, describing her fairy-tale like experience receiving the Nobel Medal on December 10 from the King of Sweden and what her life has been like since the award was announced.
Also speaking at Friday’s event was Mr. Jim Forsyth a retired GCVI teacher and Professor Strickland’s former physics teacher. He said that the first award in physics that Strickland received was at GCVI.
At the end of the assembly, GCVI arts students presented Strickland with a mural they created. It will hang in the school next to the physics room.