“Unlike the field of biology, the percentage of women reaching top posts in physics is not encouraging… we need role models like her,” said Professor Urbasi Sinha about Donna Strickland, who won the Nobel prize in physics this year. She is the first woman in 55 years, and only the third in history, to win the Nobel Prize for physics.
Sinha, an affiliate member at the Institute for Quantum Computing at Waterloo, Canada, said, “She is such a gentle, mild-mannered academic, not known to be pushy and definitely not one to influence someone to get her way.”
Strickland shares the Nobel prize with Gerard Mourou and Arthur Ashkin.
Recalling her association with Strickland, Sinha, who is an associate professor at the Raman Research Institute at Bengaluru, said she was an active participant in physics colloquia. “She was such a well-known person on campus. We used to always see her during these sessions… I did not know her personally, but have worked on certain aspects of laser physics and it was always a pleasure to listen to her.”
A Nobel prize for a woman is so rare, which is why it is so important, said Sinha, who was a post-doctoral researcher at Waterloo from 2007-12. In fact, the Indian Physics Association has set up a Gender in Physics working group to promote gender equality. Professor Prajval Shastri, chairperson of the working group, said a Nobel for a woman was a deserving acknowledgement of her work, and a step in the right direction.