Dr Fabiola Gianotti

CERN

For her leadership in research in fundamental physics at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, through her roles as spokesperson for the ATLAS Collaboration during the period of discovery of the Higgs boson and more recently as CERN director-general (2016).

Fabiola 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, working on experiments including ALEPH on the Large Electron Positron Collider, which was the precursor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and ATLAS at the LHC.

In 2009, Gianotti was elected as the project leader (“spokesperson”) of the ATLAS collaboration at CERN. ATLAS is one of the four major detector experiments at CERN and is a collaboration of around 3,000 physicists from about 180 institutions in 38 countries. ATLAS was one of the two LHC experiments involved in the observation of the Higgs boson.

On 4 July 2012, Gianotti announced the discovery of the particle, which had been proposed as a part of the standard model of particle physics to explain how some fundamental particles acquire mass. Her deep understanding of many aspects of ATLAS, in addition to her inspiring leadership, are recognised as major factors in cementing the discovery so quickly.

At the beginning of 2016, Gianotti became the first woman to hold the position of director-general at CERN. Under her leadership, the LHC will continue to collect more data about fundamental physics with increasing proton beam intensities, potentially helping physicists answer crucial questions such as the nature of dark matter or why nature prefers matter to antimatter.

Gianotti also holds or has held membership of several international committees, including the Scientific Council of the CNRS (France), the Physics Advisory Committee of the Fermilab Laboratory (US), the Scientific Council of the DESY Laboratory (Germany) and the Scientific Advisory Committee of NIKHEF (Netherlands). She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.

Gianotti received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Uppsala, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, McGill University (Montreal), the University of Oslo and the University of Edinburgh. She is an honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh.

She is a corresponding member of the Italian Academy of Science (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei) and foreign associate member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States and of the French Academy of Sciences.

Gianotti was awarded the honour of Cavaliere di Gran Croce dell’ordine al merito della Repubblica by the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. She received the Special Fundamental Physics Prize of the Milner Foundation (2012), the Enrico Fermi Prize of the Italian Physical Society (2013) and the Medal of Honour of the Niels Bohr Institute of Copenhagen (2013). She was included among the top 100 most inspirational women by the Guardian newspaper in 2011, ranked fifth in Time magazine’s Personality of the Year in 2012 and included among the world’s 100 most powerful women by Forbes magazine in both 2013 and 2015 (on both occasions she was the highest-ranked physicist).