Published: Oct. 27, 2011

Margaret Murnane PortraitCongratulations to Professor Margaret Murnane, who has been awarded the prestigious RDS Irish Times Boyle Medal for Scientific Excellence. Murnane earned the award, "for her pioneering work which has transformed the field of ultrafast laser and x-ray science."

Inaugurated in 1899, the Boyle Medal, Ireland's premier science award, continues to recognise scientific research of exceptional merit and since its inception has been awarded to 38 distinguished scientists, including George Johnstone Stoney (1899), John Joly (1911), Garret A. FitzGerald (2005) and Luke O'Neill (2009).

The Boyle Medal is awarded biennially - alternating between scientists based in Ireland, and those based abroad.

According to the news release, "Professor Murnane's distinguished work has focused on the development of lasers which can operate at the fundamental limits of speed and stability. She designed the first laser able to pulse in the low trillionths of a second range (10 femtoseconds) which allows time almost to be halted to capture a freeze-frame view of the world. She has also developed a tabletop x-ray laser using very short laser pulses to generate coherent beams of x-rays. The output x-ray beam has all the directed properties of a laser - rather than the incoherent, light bulb-like, properties of the x-ray tubes used in science, medicine and security."

Professor Murnane said "I am deeply grateful to be honoured with this award. I am certain that I would not be where I am today without the love for learning instilled through the strong education I received in Ireland through my primary, secondary and University years. It is undoubtedly this foundation which has given me the confidence to go out and put my stamp on the world. It makes it even more significant for me to learn that I am only the second female Boyle Medal Laureate in the Medal's history."

Professor Murnane was born in Limerick and is a graduate of University College Cork, where she achieved B.Sc and M.Sc degrees in physics.

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