This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to a former University of Michigan Engineering professor.
Working with Donna Strickland, who also received the prize, Gérard Mourou was honored for developing a way to generate ultrashort laser pulses in order to burn precise and small holes in materials. Strickland was once his former student and is now an associate professor at the University of Waterloo. She is also the first woman to win the award since 1963.
Mourou is a Moore Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at University of Michigan's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department. One of Mourou’s biggest accomplishments was developing the Chirped Pulse Amplification, which is a method to increase the high-intensity of a laser.
He was also the founding director of University’s Center for Ultrafast Optical Science. Developed in 1991, the CUOS is dedicated to ultrafast lasers and holds many achievements, such housing the 300 TW HERCULES laser, which once had a Guinness world record for highest focus intensity from a laser beam.
The lasers and its amplification methods being developed by Mourou and Strickland are beneficial for a variety of fields, including the vision correction industry. In fact, CUOS inspired Intralase, an eye LASIK surgery method.
The prize was also awarded to Arthur Ashkins for the development of optical tweezers.
Mourou left the University in 2004 and is currently with the École Polytechnique in his home country, France.