News Archive

Sigma Xi Member Arthur Ashkin Wins 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics

October 02, 2018

Media Contact:
Heather Thorstensen
Manager of Communications
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society or (919) 549-4691 ext. 216

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC—The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics to Sigma Xi member Arthur Ashkin and the other half to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland today. 

Ashkin, who is retired from Bell Laboratories, was selected for the prize in recognition of his invention of optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, viruses, and other living cells with their laser beam fingers. This new tool can use the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects. Ashkin succeeded in getting laser light to push small particles towards the center of the beam and to hold them there. Ashkin’s tweezers are now widely used to investigate the machinery of life. He was elected to membership in Sigma Xi in 1949 while he was at Cornell University.

Mourou, of the École Polytechnique in France and the University of Michigan, and Strickland, of the University of Waterloo, were awarded for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.

Strickland is the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. The last woman to win the prize was Sigma Xi member Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963. 

More information may be found at