The next Director-General of CERN

Fabiola Gianotti, ATLAS spokesperson from 2009 to early 2013, in front of the ATLAS detector.

Fabiola Gianotti, 52, an Italian particle physicist, will be the next Director-General of CERN — the European Center for Nuclear Research. Gianotti an outstanding scientist in her field will be the first woman to hold that position, boring an exceptional hole in the famous “glass ceiling”, the transparent barrier particularly ubiquitous in the small world of academy and research management hierarchy. Her mandate will begin in January 1st, 2016, and run for a period of 5 years. She was one of the names on a short list of three candidates put forward by a search committee. Dr. Gianotti has an impressive performance as a research scientist. She has worked at CERN for about three decades. First as a graduate student before defending her thesis on supersymmetry that culminated in 1989 in her PhD degree in experimental particle physics awarded by the University of Milan. Starting in 1994 she worked as a research physicist in the physics department at CERN, where she was involved in detector R&D and construction, software development and data analysis.

Fabiola Gianotti found herself in the limelight following the discovery of the Higgs boson in which she played a key role. She became the public face of the discovery, in the historic seminar of July 4, 2012 at CERN where she presented the results of the ATLAS experiment that would lead to François Englert and Peter Higgs being awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Gianotti is a member of the recently established 26-member Scientific Advisory Board of the UN Secretary General. Since August 2013 she is an honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh.

After a 3-year successful operation at 7 TeV the Large Hadron Collider has been turned off since February 2013 pending the upgrade of the machine up to an energy of 13 TeV. The LHC is presently being “returned to life”. Overseeing this process will probably be the next most meaningful challenge that Dr. Gianotti will face. Hopefully at the higher energy level the hunt for supersymmetry particles will open new paths for the intelligence of the Universe.


Image: Claudia Marcelloni/CERN (