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Fabiola Gianotti chosen as next head of CERN

The former head of the ATLAS experiment at the LHC will be the first female leader of Europe's largest particle physics laboratory.

Photo of Fabiola Gianotti
Photo by CERN

Today the CERN Council announced the selection of Italian physicist Fabiola Gianotti as the organization’s next director-general.

Gianotti was leader of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider from March 2009 to February 2013, covering the period in which the ATLAS and CMS experiments announced the long-awaited discovery of the Higgs boson, recognised by the award of the Nobel Prize to François Englert and Peter Higgs in 2013. She will be the first woman to hold the position of CERN director-general.

“We were extremely impressed with all three candidates put forward by the search committee,” says CERN Council President Agnieszka Zalewska. “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.”

The appointment will be formalised at the December session of Council. Gianotti’s mandate will begin on January 1, 2016, and will run for a period of five years. 

“It is a great honor and responsibility for me to be selected as the next CERN director-general following 15 outstanding predecessors,” Gianotti says. “CERN is a center of scientific excellence and a source of pride and inspiration for physicists from all over the world. CERN is also a cradle for technology and innovation, a fount of knowledge and education and a shining, concrete example of worldwide scientific cooperation and peace.

“It is the combination of these four assets that renders CERN so unique, a place that makes better scientists and better people. 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 received her PhD in experimental particle physics from the University of Milan in 1989. Since 1994 she has been a research physicist in the Physics Department of CERN. She has worked on several CERN experiments, being involved in detector R&D and construction, software development and data analysis. She is the author or co-author on more than 500 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Since August 2013 she has been an honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh. She received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Uppsala, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, McGill University and Oslo University.

She was included among the “Top 100 most inspirational women” by The Guardian newspaper in the UK in 2011, chosen as a runner-up for Time magazine’s 2012 “Person of the Year,” included among the “Top 100 most powerful women” by Forbes magazine in 2013 and considered among the “Leading global thinkers of 2013” by Foreign Policy magazine.

She is a member of the Italian Academy of Sciences and has served on several other international committees. She was recently selected to be a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

“Fabiola Gianotti is an excellent choice to be my successor,” says current CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “It has been a pleasure to work with her for many years. I look forward to continuing to work with her through the transition year of 2015 and am confident that CERN will be in very good hands.”

CERN published a version of this article as a press release.


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