Light shines on laser physicist
University of Stellenbosch physicist Christine Steenkamp is among a dozen young women scientists from around the world to be recognised for the excellence of their work.
The announcement was made in Beijing at the meeting of the Third World Organisation for Women in Science last week. The organisation’s outgoing president, Indian biotechnologist Kaiser Jamil, said each winner would receive $5 000.
Last year Steenkamp won the silver jubilee medal from the South African Institute of Physics for her “outstanding contributions to laser spectro-scopy in South Africa”.
The institute said that Steenkamp’s achievements “are all the more remarkable in view of the fact that her scientific output, of an excellent standard, occurred in the field of experimental physics, where no research infrastructure was available when she started out her career”.
She lectures at the university’s Laser Research Institute, where laser beams are used to investigate the properties of a wide range of different materials—from single molecules of gas to crystals and fruit skins.
Steenkamp describes physics as “always looking for answers to the ‘how does it work?’ question”. The year 2010 marks the 50th birthday of the laser.
To find out more, go to www.laserfest.org. The third African Laser Centre university student workshop will be held at the Zevenwacht wine estate in September.