Canadian physicist Paul Corkum is among 17 scientists honoured by the Royal Society's annual awards. The prizes recognize researchers who have made outstanding contributions to science.

Corkum has been awarded a £10,000 Royal Medal for his contributions to laser physics and the relatively new field of attosecond (10–18 s) science. Currently working at the University of Ottawa, Corkum has pioneered concepts in this branch of physics. He has demonstrated how attosecond optical and electron pulses can be created by controlling the interaction between laser light and matter. Using such short electron pulses, he has made the fastest "real-time" measurements ever recorded and combined them with sub-0.1 angstrom spatial resolution.

"Truly wonderful surprise"

"When I received the notification informing me that I'd won the Royal Medal I thought that it was a scam – like when you get an e-mail saying you may have won $1,000,000," says Corkum. "This was a truly wonderful surprise and compliment. Receiving the Royal Medal is a sign that the scientific community recognizes the importance of attosecond science, a field where there are strong future opportunities."

Corkum and the three other Royal Medal winners will receive their medals at an awards dinner in the autumn. Meanwhile, Timothy Leighton of the University of Southampton has been awarded the Clifford Paterson Medal and Lecture for his research on the applications of acoustics.