STOCKHOLM -- The awarding of the Nobel Prize in physics to Canadian scientist Donna Strickland has ended a drought for women winning any of the prestigious prizes.

Strickland is the first woman to be named a Nobel laureate since 2015.

She is also only the third to have won the physics prize -- the first was Marie Curie in 1903.

The Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences today awarded half the 9-million-kronor (US$1.01 million) prize to Arthur Ashkin of the United States and the other half will be shared by Strickland and France's Gerard Mourou.

The academy says Ashkin developed "optical tweezers" that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them.

Strickland and Mourou helped develop short and intense laser pulses that have broad industrial and medical applications.

Last year's physics prize went to three Americans who used abstruse theory and ingenious equipment design to detect the faint ripples in the universe called gravitational waves.

On Monday, American James Allison and Japan's Tasuku Honjo won the Nobel medicine prize for groundbreaking work in fighting cancer with the body's own immune system.