Anne L‘Huillier is a French physicist and professor of atomic physics at Lund University where she leads an attosecond physics group which specializes in studying the movements of electrons in real time.
L’Huillier first pursued a theoretical education and was awarded a Master of Science in theoretical physics and mathematics, but switched to experimental physics for her PhD. In 1987, she participated in an experiment where high harmonics were observed for the first time using a picosecond Nd:YAG laser system. She was so fascinated by the experiment that she decided to devote her research to it (and still does years later). In 1992 she came to collaborate on an experiment at the newly inaugurated high-power laser facility in Lund, which included one of the first femtosecond titanium-sapphire laser systems in Europe. She moved to Sweden in 1994, got a lecturer position in 1995 and a professorship in 1997. She enjoys the university environment which allows her to combine research and teaching.
Her group is focused on attosecond science which consists in generating attosecond pulses and in using them to study ultrafast dynamics. The time scale is that of the electron motion in atoms, molecules or more complex systems. Attosecond science requires a scientific environment combining state-of-the-art ultrafast laser technology, advanced attosecond engineering and a strong application program. L’Huillier group’s research is attacking all three areas at the same time. They explore applications in a large variety of areas, from atomic and molecular physics, to surface physics, plasmonics and ultrafast coherent imaging.
L’Huillier was on the Nobel Committee for Physics between 2007 and 2015 and has been a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences since 2004. She has over 400 publications in scientific journals and has won a number of significant awards, including Julius Springer Prize in 2003, UNESCO L’Oréal Award in 2011 and Carl-Zeiss Research Award in 2013. She has also been awarded the Blaise Pascal Medal and an Honorary Degree at Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris. She was elected a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences in 2018.
She likes to have an international group of students working with her and is hoping that in the future, more women come to her team and science in general. One of her team members says that L’Huillier probably does not want to be seen as a role model – but nevertheless is one by definition, as a woman scientist who has managed to balance a lovely family life and a successful career.
European Research Council “Meeting Anne l´Huillier, a successful woman in fast motion science”:
“It is very important to do basic science. Then I can also say that […] we are pushing laser technology forward and this also leads to applications. Really, research has to be done by a group, and it is really important this group can work efficiently together.”