Based on her work in the area of applied optical physics and laser pulse generation, Margaret Murnane has been selected as one of 25 MacArthur Foundation Fellows for 2000. Commonly referred to as a "genius grant" the fellowship includes a $500,000 stipend over a five-year period to be spent at the discretion of the recipient on intellectual, social, or artistic endeavors.
"We were delighted and extremely surprised to hear the news that I had been selected as a MacArthur Fellow," Murnane said. "The award was for joint work I did with my husband, Henry Kapteyn, and our students over the past 10 years. We plan to use the funds to purchase equipment for our joint laboratory, to hire a part-time secretary, and to treat our undergraduate and graduate students."
Murnane and Kapteyn were recruited from the Center for Ultrafast Optical Sciences at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) in 1999 into tenured professorships at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) and fellowships at the JILA joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST; Boulder, CO). Their work focuses on the generation and application of ultrafast light pulses of only a few cycles in duration and requires the design and building of new types of lasers and the investigation of innovative methods for shaping and control of optical pulses.
Recent work by Murnane and Kapteyn in extending ultrafast light pulses into the deep ultraviolet and soft x-ray regions offers the potential for a wide variety of applications in chemical and plasma physics, as well as integrated circuit manufacturing, and biological imaging.
"Not only is [the MacArthur Fellowship] an honor for Margaret, it reflects on the outstanding quality of our physics department," said Peter Spear, dean of the CU-Boulder College of Arts and Sciences, which is also the home of the physics department. "Professor Murnane brings her world-class research into the classroom, where she teaches freshman physics as well as other undergraduate and graduate courses."
Murnane was also installed as a board member of the Optical Society of America this year, and OSA president Erich Ippen characterized her MacArthur Fellowship as "recognizing true brilliance." Her other awards include the American Physical Society's Simon Ramo Plasma Physics Prize, a Presidential Young Investigator Award, a Sloan Foundation Fellowship, and a Presidential Faculty Fellowship. She is also vice-chair of the National Research Council committee on atomic, molecular, and optical sciences. In addition, Murnane, now 41, has received worldwide recognition for winning the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award, given each year to the top woman physicist under the age of 40.
Murnane and Kapteyn earned their doctorates at the University of California-Berkeley and have taught physics at Washington State University (Pullman). They also launched Kapteyn-Murnane Laboratories, which manufactures ultrafast laser instrumentation.