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Ursula Keller has won the Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist, known as the ‘Swiss Nobel Prize’

16.9.2022 | The physicist is honoured for her work on ultrafast lasers, including systems now used in manufacturing, communications technology and surgery
Professor of physics Ursula Keller from ETH Zurich has been awarded the 2022 Swiss Science Prize from the Marcel Benoist Foundation, known as the ‘Swiss Nobel Prize’. She receives the prize for what the foundation in a press release calls her “ground-breaking work in short-time laser physics and quantum mechanics.” It comes with 250,000 Swiss francs.

“It’s an incredible honour to receive the Marcel Benoist Prize, in recognition of almost 30 years of applied and basic research at ETH Zurich,” said Prof Keller in a statement.

Prof Keller’s most famous contribution is her invention of semiconductor saturable absorber mirrors (SESAMs), which can create femtosecond light pulses using solid-state lasers. SESAMs are now a key tool in a wide range fields, from electronics to surgery. Her later work remained focused on the ultra-fast realm, eventually leading to the creation of the Attoclock, an extremely accurate clock that can measure time intervals of a few attoseconds – one billionth of billionth of a second.

Outside physics, Prof Keller is deeply involved with gender equality in STEM and academia. For example, she recently penned an essay based on her experiences as the first tenured female professor at ETH Zurich. In her statement on the Marcel Benoist Prize, she touches on this too:

“This award is very special to me. My appointment as the first female professor of physics at ETH Zurich, coming straight from the USA, was partly thanks to a policy of recruiting more female scientists to leadership roles. That’s why I am particularly glad to see this award confirm that such initiatives really do help promote integration and excellence.”

The Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist has been awarded since 1920 to researchers whose work benefits human life. The award ceremony for Prof Keller will be held on November 3rd.
  (© Emilie Steinmark / AcademiaNet / Spektrum.de)

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