The European Organization for Nuclear Research, more popularly known as CERN, which houses the largest particle physics laboratory in the world, will have its very first female Director-General when Dr. Fabiola Gianotti assumes the key leadership position beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
A handover ceremony had already been executed during the 178th Session of the CERN council on Dec. 18 when incumbent Director-General Rolf Heuer stepped down after a seven year term. He wished CERN continued success in the future
"We have a great legacy to build on, and a very bright future ahead," incoming Director-General Fabiola Gianotti said.
We know that Gianotti is the first female director-general of CERN but what else should we learn about the physicist who will be directing the most famous particle physics laboratory when the new year rings in? Let's take a deeper look at Gianotti's past and achievements to give us a bigger idea about how bright CERN's future is.
Gianotti's Road To CERN
Physics was not Gianotti's first love but music. Her love and passion for music was deep that she eventually acquired a diploma as a pianist from The Milan Conservatory, the school which educated some of Italy's most prominent musicians and conductors. She also concentrated on ancient Greek, Latin, and philosophy.
Her choice of concentration may seem a little too different but everything actually tied up well together. Music required a certain precision that must be exercised at all times and Greek and Latin are both languages and ancient civilizations that advanced the role of science in society, as well as seek answers to philosophical questions.
Gianotti also had a thirst for knowledge and a penchant for finding answers to life's questions, and while her pursuit for answers began with Philosophy, she eventually moved on to physics. She received her Ph.D. on experimental particle physics in 1989 and began working at CERN in 1994.
"Physics also tried to address the fundamental questions, and often could give an answer... perhaps not the final answer, perhaps just a little step forward. I liked it immediately," she said in an interview.
Discovery And Success
After 15 years in CERN, Gianotti was elected as project leader of the Atlas Experiment, one of the major experiments devoted to proving the existence of the Higgs Boson, or what some have come to call as "The God Particle" (Note: Scientists, especially Peter Higgs, don't like the nickname since they believe it may be offensive). It was during the time that Gianotti led the team when the Atlas experiment finally found evidence of the Higgs particle.
Below is a short video explanation about the Higgs Boson and you will see Fabiola Gianotti in front of the crowd as they finally announce the discovery to the press, a little over three minutes into the video.
Awards And Recognitions
Following the discovery, Gianotti's name became more distinguished. In 2012, she had the honor of being awarded the title "Grande Ufficiale dell'ordine al merito della Repubblica" by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. Gianotti also received the Breakthrough Prize under the "Special Fundamental Physics Prize" category founded by Yuri Milner, a Russian physicist and entrepreneur.
"The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.. recognize[s] those individuals who have made profound contributions to human knowledge. It is open to all physicists — theoretical, mathematical, experimental — working on the deepest mysteries of the Universe," the website explained.
In 2013, Gianotti received the Enrico Fermi Prize from the Italian Physical Society who award members that "honoured physics with their discoveries." In the same year, the Niels Bohr Institute of Copenhagen awarded her the Medal of Honor.
Aside from being recognized by several publications as an inspirational woman in the sciences, she also ranks No.83 in Forbes Magazine's "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women" of 2015.
CERN's Future Under Dr. Fabiola Gianotti's Leadership
"It was Dr Gianotti's vision for CERN's future as a world leading accelerator laboratory, coupled with her in-depth knowledge of both CERN and the field of experimental particle physics that led us to this outcome," CERN President Agnieszka Zalewska said in 2014 when the Gianotti's appointment was made public. Incumbent Director-General Rolf Heuer added that he believes CERN is in good hands.
Indeed, with the track record of success Gianotti possesses, CERN will undoubtedly continue to accomplish many of its goals under her leadership.