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Paul Corkum becomes first Canadian to receive the Isaac Newton Medal

Physicist Paul Corkum has added another prestigious international award to his impressive roster: the Isaac Newton Medal and Prize, the highest accolade of the United Kingdom's Institute of Physics

University of Ottawa

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Credit: National Research Council of Canada

Physicist Paul Corkum has added another prestigious international award to his impressive roster: the Isaac Newton Medal and Prize, the highest accolade of the United Kingdom's Institute of Physics. The Distinguished Professor at the University of Ottawa and National Research Council-Canada Research Chair in Attosecond Photonics is the first Canadian to receive this distinction, which recognizes "world-leading contributions to physics by an individual."

Dr. Corkum is being honoured for his pioneering role in the development of attosecond science -- an attosecond lasts one billionth of a billionth of a second. Working with collaborator and fellow physicist Ferenc Krausz, he 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. Dr. 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.

"Isaac Newton was one of the greatest scientists to have ever lived, having laid the foundation for much of modern physics," said Dr. Corkum, who is also Director of the Joint Attosecond Science Laboratory, a partnership between the National Research Council of Canada and the University of Ottawa. "It is therefore a tremendous honour to receive a prize named after him. While I may be the first Canadian to win this award, I am surely not the last, as this is a golden age for Canadian science."

The Isaac Newton Medal also highlights Dr. Corkum's groundbreaking discoveries over the past 20 years in a wide range of other fields, including molecular imaging, chemistry, condensed matter and optical science.

Geneviève Tanguay, Vice-President of Emerging Technologies at the National Research Council of Canada, expressed pride that "Dr. Corkum is the first Canadian to receive this distinguished recognition from the UK Institute of Physics. His groundbreaking research, which launched the field of attosecond science, began at the NRC decades ago and continues to transform our understanding of the world around us."

"The Isaac Newton Medal is another fitting tribute to Paul Corkum's exceptional contributions to the rapidly growing field of attosecond physics," said Sylvain Charbonneau, Vice-President, Research at the University of Ottawa. "His revolutionary work has resonated around the world, raising the profile of photonics research at the University of Ottawa and the National Research Council of Canada. The University is honoured to have a scientist of his stature as a member of its faculty."

Paul Corkum has garnered a long list of awards at home and abroad for his work, including the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, 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.

Dr. Corkum will receive the Isaac Newton Medal and Prize at a ceremony in London, England, in November 2018.

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