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Published: 2024-02-19

Anne L'Huillier answered student's questions in Aula Nordica

NEWS The queue was long to get an autograph or a picture with Nobel Laureate Anne L’Huillier when she visited Umeå University. "I skipped my math test to come here today," said high school student Amy McKay.

It's not every day you get the chance to meet a Nobel Laureate. When Anne L’Huillier, the 2023 Physics Prize winner, gave an open lecture in Aula Nordica on 15 February, hundreds of people came to listen. Many in the audience were high school students and university students who afterwards had their own question session with the Nobel Laureate.

One of the questions was what profession she would have chosen if she had not become a researcher, and the answer came quickly: a high school teacher in mathematics and physics. Anne L’Huillier actually has a teaching degree, but today she only teaches at the university level. Meeting the younger generation is something she enjoys.

"I loved being a student myself. To continue in academia was a way for me to keep learning things. That's what research is about and it's exciting," said Anne L’Huillier.

I think she made it very easy to understand

Other questions were about what her research results can be used for, what she does when she hits a dead end, and what it's like to be a woman in a male-dominated world. The latter question was asked by Hanan Shaban, a third-year student at the Natural sciences' programme at Minervagymnasiet, who has been considering studying physics but is now leaning more towards medicine.

"I think there has been a change. I have worked with only men for many years but not anymore. I really see a positive trend. I hope you women here feel that this world is open for you," said Anne L’Huillier.

In the audience was also Amy McKay, who got permission from her teacher to attend the lecture, even though they had a test scheduled. She dreams of becoming a researcher.

"I read an article about Anne L’Huillier a few months ago. When I then found out she would come here, it was a no-brainer to attend. I think she made it very easy to understand," she said.

Anne L’Huillier spent the whole day at Umeå University. The morning program consisted of a tour of some of the labs at the Department of Physics.

The lecture in Aula Nordica was titled "The route to attosecond pulses" and described her long journey from when she began researching attosecond physics in the 1980s until she received the Nobel Prize in December 2023.

"Attoseconds are an incredibly short period of time. I have already used many attoseconds and we are just at the beginning of this hour," said Katrine Riklund, pro-vice-chancellor at Umeå University, when she introduced Anne L’Huillier.

Anne L’Huillier was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics together with Ferenc Krausz and Pierre Agostini "for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter."