Margaret Murnane

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Margaret M. Murnane
Born(1959-01-23)January 23, 1959
Alma materUniversity College Cork (B.S., 1981 M.S., 1983)
University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D., 1989)
Known forFounder of the field of ultrafast x-ray science
KMLabs Co-founder
SpousePhysicist Henry Kapteyn
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley (1989 – 1990)
Washington State University (1990 - 1995)
University of Michigan (1996 - 1999)
University of Colorado Boulder (1999 – present)

Margaret Mary Murnane NAS AAA&S (born 1959) is Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, having moved there in 1999, with past positions at the University of Michigan and Washington State University. She is currently Director of the STROBE NSF Science and Technology Center, and is among the foremost active researchers in laser science and technology. Her interests and research contributions span topics including atomic, molecular, and optical physics, nanoscience, laser technology, materials and chemical dynamics, plasma physics, and imaging science. Her work has earned her multiple awards[1][2][3] including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship award in 2000, the Frederic Ives Medal/Quinn Prize in 2017, the highest award of The Optical Society, and the 2021 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics.

Early life[edit]

Born and raised in County Limerick, Ireland, Murnane became interested in physics through her father who was a primary school teacher. She received her B.A. and M.S. from University College, Cork.[3] She moved to the United States to study at the University of California at Berkeley where she earned her PhD in 1989. She is married to physics professor Henry Kapteyn. They work together and operate their own lab at JILA at the University of Colorado.[4]


Murnane has co-authored more than 500 articles in peer reviewed journals, with her work receiving ~35000 cites.[5] Margaret is a founder of the field of ultrafast x-ray science, having made transformational contributions to this area of research in every decade since the 1980s. She is also currently the most-accomplished woman laboratory experimental physicist in the US, further distinguished by having independently developed her university-based laboratory effort with Prof. Kapteyn.[6] In their lab, Murnane, Kapteyn, and their students make lasers whose beams flash like a strobe light – except that each flash is a trillion times faster. These lasers, like camera flashes, make it possible to record the motions of atoms in chemical reactions, and of atoms and electrons in materials systems. Some of her lasers can generate pulses of less than 10 femtoseconds.[7] Using the very high peak power that it is possible to create with a femtosecond laser, it becomes possible to coherently upconvert light to much shorter wavelengths, in the extreme ultraviolet and soft x-ray region of the spectrum. This high harmonic generation process makes possible for the first time what is essentially a tabletop-scale x-ray laser light source. Prof. Murnane was the first to explore the use of femtosecond lasers for x-ray generation, and has made substantive pioneering contributions to many aspects of this area of research, including the science and fundamental understanding of the high harmonic process, the laser technology required to use this process to implement practical tabletop light sources for applications, and in applying this new source to make fundamental discoveries in areas ranging from basic atomic and chemical dynamics, to materials dynamics, to nanoimaging. She is also a founder the area now known as experimental "Attosecond Science," having performed foundational experiments that for the first time clearly demonstrated the ability to manipulate electron dynamics with attosecond precision.[8] She is also co-founder of the laser company KMLabs, Inc.,[9] for which Intel Capital is a co-investor,[10] and which has commercialized these technologies for research and possible industrial applications in nanometrology.



  1. ^ a b "Murnane, Margaret M." National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b "1990 Marshall N. Rosenbluth Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award Recipient". American Physical Society. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "1997 Maria Goeppert Mayer Award Recipient". American Physical Society. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  4. ^ Davis, T. H. (2006). "Profile of Margaret M. Murnane". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 103 (36): 13276–13278. Bibcode:2006PNAS..10313276D. doi:10.1073/pnas.0606322103. PMC 1569154. PMID 16938855.
  5. ^ "Margaret Murnane Google Scholar profile". University of Colorado at Boulder. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  6. ^ This can be determined through a survey and literature search for current members of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as recipients of the Franklin Institute Awards.
  7. ^ Optics Letters 19(15), 1149-1151 (1994).
  8. ^ Physical Review A 58(1), R30-R33 (1998); Nature 406(6792), 164-166 (2000).
  9. ^ "Home".
  10. ^ "Intel backs KMLabs' ultrafast laser development".
  11. ^ "Margaret M. Murnane". 25 January 2020.
  12. ^ "Professor Margaret Murnane Wins Highest Medal from The Optical Society". Physics. 20 February 2017. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Three new honorary doctorates in Science and Technology – Uppsala University, Sweden". Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  14. ^ "Registrar : Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Ireland". Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  15. ^ "The 2013 Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Science and Quantum Optics: Margaret M. Murnane". The Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Science and Quantum Optics. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  16. ^ Boyle Medal Laureates Royal Dublin Society
  17. ^ "R. W. Wood Prize". The Optical Society. Retrieved 10 May 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "CU Professor Margaret Murnane Honored By National Women's Science Organization". University of Colorado at Boulder. Archived from the original on 17 March 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
  19. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter M" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 16 April 2011.