Physicist Paul Corkum is co-winner of the prestigious Wolf Prize in Physics, joining the ranks of such illustrious laureates as the late Stephen Hawking. The uOttawa distinguished professor, principal research officer at the National Research Council of Canada, and co-director of the NRC-uOttawa Joint Centre for Extreme Photonics shares the prize with fellow physicists Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier of Europe.
The Wolf Prize, whose winners were announced today by Israeli president Isaac Herzog, is awarded to “outstanding scientists and artists from around the world (regardless of nationality, race, colour, religion, sex or political views) for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations amongst peoples.” In the fields of physics and chemistry, the award is often considered second only to the Nobel Prize.
Professor Corkum is being honoured for his pioneering role in the development of attosecond — one billionth of a billionth of a second — science. In collaboration with Ferenc Krausz, Corkum was the first to produce 650-attosecond pulses, flashes of light so short and powerful they allow scientists to capture the movement of subatomic particles and observe molecular reactions as they occur.
Professor Corkum’s research led to the first experimental image of a molecular orbital and the first space-time image of an attosecond pulse. His ultimate goal is to be able to direct the movement of electrons, which could lead to transformative advances in fields such as computing, engineering and medicine. For example, attosecond technology could help us better understand the healing effects of drugs and the damage and repair mechanisms of DNA. It could also advance electronics and electron-based information technologies to make them faster.
“The core idea of attosecond science,” says Corkum, “is to use laser light to control electrons from atoms, molecules or solids and to use these electrons to create new light with unique properties.”
“Paul Corkum’s role in launching the field of attosecond science has led to one of the most significant developments in physics over the last few decades,” said Sylvain Charbonneau, vice-president, research and innovation. “The University of Ottawa is immensely proud of the worldwide recognition he continues to receive and congratulates him on this most prestigious distinction.”
Paul Corkum has garnered a long list of awards at home and abroad for his ground-breaking achievements, including the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, the Isaac Newton Medal and Prize of the United Kingdom’s Institute of Physics, the Lomonosov Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Harvey Prize of the Israel Institute of Technology, the King Faisal International Prize for Science and the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.
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