Fabiola Gianotti at CERN in December 2015
|Born||October 29, 1960|
|Alma mater||University of Milan|
Fabiola Gianotti (Italian: [faˈbiːola dʒaˈnɔtti]; born October 29, 1960) is an Italian particle physicist, the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) Director-General, and the first woman to hold this position. Her mandate began on 1 January 2016 and runs for a period of five years. At its 195th Session, the CERN Council selected Fabiola Gianotti, as the Organization’s next Director-General, for her second term of office. The appointment will be formalised at the December Session of the Council, and Gianotti’s new five-year term of office will begin on 1 January 2021. This is the first time in CERN’s history that a Director-General has been appointed for a full second term.
Early life and education
From an early age, Gianotti was interested in nature and the world around her. Her father, an acclaimed geologist encouraged her early love of learning. “It is from him I have inculcated my passion and love for nature,” she said in an interview with the Humans of Science.
Gianotti found her passion for scientific research after reading a biography on scientist, Marie Curie. Previously, she had studied the humanities, focusing on music and philosophy. Gianotti received a PhD in experimental particle physics from the University of Milan in 1989.
Career and research
Since 1996, following several postdoctoral positions, including a fellowship at CERN, she has been a research physicist in the Physics Department of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and since August 2013 an honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh. She is also a member of the Italian Academy of Sciences (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei), foreign associate member of the US National Academy of Sciences and foreign associate of the French Academy of Science. She was elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society in 2019.
She was/is a member of several international committees, such as the Scientific Council of the CNRS (France), the Physics Advisory Committee of the Fermilab Laboratory (USA), the Council of the European Physical Society, the Scientific Council of the DESY Laboratory (Germany), the Scientific Advisory Committee of NIKHEF (Netherlands). She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon.
Higgs boson discovery
In 2009 Gianotti was elected as the project leader and spokesperson of the ATLAS project at CERN. ATLAS involved a collaboration of around 3,000 physicists from 180 institutions in 38 countries. ATLAS was one of the two experiments involved in the observation of the Higgs boson. On 4 July 2012 Gianotti announced the discovery of the particle. Until then, the Higgs boson was a theoretical part of the standard model in particle physics theory to explain how some fundamental particles acquire mass. Gianotti's deep understanding of many ATLAS aspects and her leadership were recognised as major factors in the discovery.
Gianotti is the author or co-author of more than 500 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals. She has given more than 30 invited plenary talks at the major international conferences in the field.
Gianotti had to push past barriers to be successful in a male dominated field. In the European scientific community, for every one woman, there are two men. Only 20% of the team that worked on the ATLAS project were women. Gianotti was the first female director of CERN, and she led two of the largest CERN experiments in 2012. She insists that she has never faced discrimination because of her gender, “I cannot say myself that I ever felt discriminated against,” she said. “Perhaps I was but I didn’t realize it.” Even though she feels that she was never discriminated against because she was a female, she is helping break down barriers the male dominated field created for aspiring female scientists. She specifically wants to give women more support when having children. She feels that she was never given enough support, and for this reason, never had children, a decision she now regrets.
Honours and awards
Gianotti was included among the “Top 100 most inspirational women” by The Guardian newspaper (UK, 2011), ranked 5th in Time magazine’s Personality of the Year (USA, 2012), as well as the runner-up for Person of the Year, included among the “Top 100 most influential women” by Forbes magazine (USA, 2013) and considered among the “Leading Global Thinkers of 2013” by Foreign Policy magazine (USA, 2013). She was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 2018.
She has received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Uppsala, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), McGill University (Montreal), Oslo University, University of Edinburgh, University of Naples Federico II, University of Chicago, University of Savoy, and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
- Since 2013 she is honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh.
- In December 2014 Gianotti was awarded the honour of “Cavaliere di Gran Croce dell’ordine al merito della Repubblica” by the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
- In September 2013 Gianotti was awarded The Enrico Fermi Prize of the Italian Physical Society (2013).
- In November 2013 Gianotti was awarded The Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour.
- In December 2012 Gianotti was awarded the Fundamental Physics Prize of the Milner foundation: Special Breakthrough Prize.
- In December 2012 Gianotti was awarded the Gold Medal (known as "Ambrogino d'oro", named after the patron saint of Milan, Saint Ambrose) by the Milan Municipality.
- In 2018, she was listed as one of BBC's 100 Women.
Comic Sans controversy
When CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, much controversy sprang from Gianotti's use of Comic Sans in the slide presentation of the results. A physicist, Alby Reid, has even started an online petition calling Microsoft to change the name of the font to Comic Cerns. Vincent Connare, the font's creator has tweeted support for this petition. Gianotti had used Comic Sans in presenting information in the past, but the uproar was due largely to the importance of the material presented.
Gianotti is a trained ballerina and plays the piano. She has never married; in a New York Times profile on Gianotti, Dutch physicist, and a colleague, Rende Steerenberg described her as someone who "has dedicated her life to physics...sure, she has made sacrifices." In a 2010 interview, Gianotti said that she saw no contradiction between science and faith and they belong to "two different spheres". In an interview by la Repubblica, she said that "Science and religion are separate disciplines, though not antithetical. You can be a physicist and have faith or not."
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-11-18. Retrieved 2018-07-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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- ""Io, tra Dio e il Big Bang". Fabiola Gianotti, direttrice del Cern: la signora dell'Universo" (in Italian). la Repubblica. 28 December 2014.
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