Donna Strickland is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo and is one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 for developing chirped pulse amplification with Gérard Mourou, her PhD supervisor at the time. They published this Nobel-winning research in 1985 when Strickland was a PhD student at the University of Rochester in New York state. Together they paved the way toward the most intense laser pulses ever created. The research has several applications today in industry and medicine – including the cutting of a patient’s cornea in laser eye surgery, and the machining of small glass parts for use in cell phones.
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.
Strickland was named a Companion of the Order of Canada. She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award and a Cottrell Scholar Award. She received the Rochester Distinguished Scholar Award and the Eastman Medal from the University of Rochester. Strickland 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). She 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.
Strickland earned a PhD in optics from the University of Rochester and a B.Eng. from McMaster University.

Research Interests

Donna Strickland develops novel ultrafast laser systems to study nonlinear optical phenomena. Many nonlinear optics applications require two synchronous pulses having different colors. One such application is mid-infrared generation through difference frequency mixing the two colors. Most molecules have distinctive spectral signature in the wavelength range of 3 to 20 um, known as the molecular fingerprint region. While there has been a lot of work in producing wavelengths below 10um, there are still very few coherent sources at the longer wavelengths. Donna's group builds two-color, short pulses lasers that currently can generate short pulses in the 15 to 20 um wavelengths. These sources could find applications in environmental monitoring, medical applications and trace gas detection.
Another goal of the group is to produce single-femtosecond pulses with sufficient power to carry out nonlinear experiments. To generate these ultrashort pulses, a coherent ultrabroad band source is required. The two-color laser is tuned to have the difference of the two peak frequencies resonant with a Raman transition. Because both colors are intense, the Raman transition is highly driven resulting in a large number of Raman sidebands spanning the infrared to the ultraviolet. By phasing all these colors, it should be possible to generate a pulse duration as low as a single femtosecond with sufficient power for multiphoton processes. With such a source, the stopped motion of an atom vibrating in a molecule could be measured.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 31: Engineering Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 13: Physics