16:20 PM

Ohio State celebrates Nobel Laureate Pierre Agostini in Columbus

Scientist visits Department of Physics on Columbus campus

On a breezy spring day, Pierre Agostini, emeritus professor of physics at The Ohio State University and 2023 Nobel Laureate, was welcomed back to Columbus with a crowd of more than 200 people. Students, faculty and staff alike applauded the professor as he entered the Physics Research Building.

“It’s thrilling for us to have a Nobel Laureate here,” said Ruth Leonard, assistant to the department’s chair, Michael Poirier. “We are honored that he came to Ohio State and are proud to have a part of an amazing achievement.”

The part Leonard mentioned refers to an authentic replica of Agostini’s Nobel medal, which he presented to Poirier before the assembled crowd.

“I was proud to be your representative of Ohio State’s scientific community in Stockholm,” Agostini said. “I give you this medal as a token of my gratitude to Ohio State and the physics department.”

“Everyone in the Department of Physics is delighted to have the opportunity to honor Dr. Agostini today for his amazing scientific accomplishments and being awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics,” Poirier said. “This is one of the most historic achievements for not only the Department of Physics but Ohio State. Dr. Agostini is an inspiration for all of us!”

Agostini was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics last year for his work on the creation of techniques to capture electrons using pulses of light. Each pulse lasts just an attosecond, or one quintillionth of a second.

Fourth-year physics student Ryan O’Donnell is currently studying the same field, optical physics. He met Agostini the day before. It was a unique experience, he said.

“It was unlike anything I’ve done before,” he said. “From a distance, you see him as such a lofty person, but to recognize that he’s just a person like us, that we could maybe accomplish something like that one day, is inspiring. We could see ourselves in him as motivation to continue our research and schooling.”

The Nobel Prize is important, said Abigail Smith, a third-year graduate student studying chemistry and biochemistry.

“The goal for most scientists is to somehow be involved with Nobel Prize-level research, so to have that here at Ohio State is a really big deal,” she said.

In addition to university students, there was an even younger face in the crowd: 10-year-old Stoyan Daskalov attended with his mother Rebecca Daskalova, who supervises a physics lab. Both were wearing shirts signed by Agostini, whom they’d spoken with earlier in the week.

“He was really nice,” Daskalov said.

“I wanted him to see someone who won a Nobel Prize,” said Daskalova. “I thought it would be exciting for him – he’s interested in science.”

When asked what advice he had for the scientists of tomorrow, like Daskalov, Agostini had one suggestion: “Don’t do attoseconds.”

“Attoseconds are dead for the Nobel Prize,” he continued. “Try to do something else. Use your imagination and your passions and your understanding of physics.”

Pierre Agostini will deliver a lecture that is open to the public on April 2, 2024. More information can be found on the Department of Physics’ website: https://opticalscience.osu.edu/events/public-lecture-professor-emeritus-and-nobel-laureate-pierre-agostini.

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