Fabiola Gianotti has been selected to head the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), becoming the first woman ever to head the organization. The Italian physicist will be formally nominated to the post in December, and her term will start in January 2016, lasting for five years.

Gianotti headed the Atlas experiment at CERN during the period researchers at the facility detected the long-sought Higgs Boson. Her group studied the results of smashing positively-charged protons into each other, at velocities approaching that of the speed of light. It was during this time that the researcher first became known to the general public, for her role in announcing the discovery in 2012.

"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. I would like to thank all the candidates for giving Council such a hard decision to make, and the search committee for all its hard work over recent months," Agnieszka Zalewska, president of the council at CERN that made the decision, said.

The CERN group, based in Switzerland, announced the selection of Gianotti on November 4. Gianotti started work at the facility in 1987, soon after graduating from the University of Milan. The 52-year-old physicist will replace Rolf Heuer, who has guided CERN since the early days of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The LHC was designed and built to uncover evidence of the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle believed to provide mass to matter. Physicists believed the particle would have a mass of either 115 or 140 gigaelectronvolts (GeV). This number would provide overwhelming evidence for either the standard model of physics, or a multiverse composed of vast numbers of individual universes. When the particle was found, it was measured to be around 125 GeV, neither confirming nor denying either grand theory of the Cosmos. The collider was shut down for upgrades, and will re-open in spring 2015, with twice the energy previously available.

The CERN laboratory was founded in 1954, providing physicists and other researchers with opportunities to utilize the largest scientific instruments in the world to uncover the deepest secrets of nature.

"It is a great honor and responsibility for me to be selected as the next CERN Director-General following 15 outstanding predecessors. I will fully engage myself to maintain CERN's excellence in all its attributes, with the help of everybody, including CERN Council, staff and users from all over the world," Gianotti said

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