Born on October 30, 1943 in Saint John, N.B., Canada, Professor Paul Bruce Corkum received his Bachelor’s degree in physics from Acadia University in Wolfville, NS, Canada in 1965, and both his M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from Leghigh University in Bethlehem, PA, USA in 1967 and 1972, respectively. He joined the National Research Council of Canada since 1973 and currently holds the Joint University of Ottawa-NRC Chair in Attosecond Physics.
Professor Corkum is a renowned authority on lasers and their applications. For more than three decades, he has been developing and advancing knowledge on how intense laser light pulses can be used to study the structure of matter. His research has consistently been “characterized by a deep physical insight accompanied by elegant models and supported by highly original experiments” which led to major advances in atomic and molecular physics. He won the KFIP in Physics jointly with Professor Ferenc Krausz in recognition of their independent pioneering work which enabled them to capture the stunningly fast motion of electrons in atoms and molecules with a time resolution down to attoseconds (an attosecond is one billionth billionth of a second).
Professor Corkum’s innovative research and contributions to physics have earned him wide recognition. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Fellow of the Royal Society of London and Foreign member of US Academy of Sciences. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America. In 2007, he was inducted to the Order-of-Canada. His other honours and awards include: Gold Medal of the Canadian Association of Physicist for lifetime achievement in Physics (1996); Einstein Award of the Society for Optical and Quantum Electronics (1999); Tory Medal of the Royal Society of Canada (2003); LEOS distinguished lectureship; (2001-2003); Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: Golden Jubilee Medal (2003); Charles Townes award of the Optical Society of America (2005); IEEE’s Quantum Electronics award (2005); Killam Prize for Physical Sciences (2006); The American Physical Society’s Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science (2006); the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)’s Polanyi prize (2007); NSERC’s Herzberg Prize (2009) and Zewail Award of the American Chemical Society (2010). He was also awarded honorary doctoral degrees from both Acadia University (2006) and the University of Western Ontario (2009) in Canada.
Professor Corkum authored more than 240 peer-reviewed papers, most of which in leading physics journals; he also edited several books and gave approximately 23 public, plenary or invited lectures per year. He mentored numerous MSc and PhD, Postdoctoral Fellows and visiting scientists in his laboratory. He also served for six years as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Physics B, became its Deputy Editor from 2009-2011 and currently its Editor. He is also a member of the editorial advisory board of the International Journal of Nonlinear Optics.
Professor Paul B. Corkum and Professor Ferenc Krausz were recognized for their independent pioneering work which has made it possible to capture the incredibly fast motion of electrons in atoms and molecules in a “movie” with a time resolution down to attoseconds. An attosecond is a vanishingly short time. One attosecond compared to one second is like one second compared to the age of the Universe.
When intense ultra-short laser pulses are focused into a gas, a laser-like beam of attosecond pulses of ultraviolet light is produced.
Professor Corkum was the first to explain this phenomenon with a conceptually simple model. He has harnessed this process for pioneering studies in collision physics, plasma physics, and molecular science. He has even been able to produce tomographic images of the movement of electrons in molecules.