Margaret Murnane was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Trinity College Dublin on June 26, 2015. The entire ceremony was conducted in Latin and included a lively presentation of Murnane's accomplishments in laser science. It began, "Lucida diei patefacere res omnes quae oculis videantur," or "We see and understand the world through light," the words spoken by Murnane to open her lecture at the American Physical Society in March 2015. The Trinity College presentation went on to cite her ground-breaking work in laser science that has transformed the field of ultrafast laser and x-ray science. She has not only engaged in fundamental research, but also used her discoveries to found a start-up company (KMLabs) with her collaborator and husband, Henry Kapteyn. Murnane has published more than 200 scientific papers and given more than 300 presentations worldwide.
She has been able to capture the movements of the smallest particles in nature, including the dance of electrons in atoms and molecules. She has engineered coherent x-ray beams that can distinguish important biomolecules. Her accomplishments are expected to have applications ranging from entertainment to surgery and new pharmaceuticals.
Murnane was born in County Limerick, Ireland, and fell in love with science when she was 8 years old. Her passion for discovery took her first to University College Cork, then to the University of California at Berkeley for graduate work, and then to academic positions at Washington State University, the University of Michigan, and finally to the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she is Distinguished Professor of Physics and Fellow of JILA. Murnane has received 30 awards and honors for her accomplishments, including the 2011 Boyle Medal of the Royal Dublin Society.
"She is an enthusiastic supporter of the Trinity School of Physics, but, more than anything else, she is a shining model for women in science," the presentation concluded.