University of Ottawa attosecond laser researcher and physicist Dr. Paul Corkum has received the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, Canada’s most prestigious science prize, from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The award comes with a guarantee of 1 million CAD (about $811,000) in research funding over five years. Corkum, a professor in the physics department at Ottawa and attosecond photonics research chair at the National Research Council Canada (NRC), was selected for his innovative research in the cutting-edge field of attosecond science. Known as the “father” of attosecond molecular imaging, Corkum and his team used attosecond laser pulses to see – and record in freeze-frame fashion – chemical reactions as they occur in nature at the speed of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second. Using the pulses, they were able to capture the first image of an electron orbiting a molecule, one of the smallest bits of matter in the universe. “Comparing one attosecond to one second is like comparing one second to the age of the universe,” said Corkum. “At this speed we’re looking at the microworld of atoms and molecules on its own time and space scale.” Corkum says attosecond imaging brings physicists a big step closer to controlling the movements of electrons as they speed along inside molecules. This superfast manipulation of electrons could lead to breakthroughs in fields such as computing, engineering and medicine. Corkum’s previous honors include the Order of Canada, Canada’s Killam Prize for physical sciences and the NRC’s 2008 John C. Polanyi Award for outstanding achievement in natural sciences.