Fabiola Gianotti

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Fabiola Gianotti
Portrait of Fabiola Gianotti.jpg
Gianotti in 2011
Born (1960-10-29) October 29, 1960 (age 58)
Rome, Italy
Alma materUniversity of Milan
Known forLeader of the ATLAS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider. Her team discovered the Higgs boson.
Scientific career
FieldsParticle physics

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.[1][2] Her mandate began on 1 January 2016 and runs for a period of five years.

Early life and childhood[edit]

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.[3]

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.[4]

Education and research[edit]

Fabiola Gianotti received a PhD in experimental particle physics from the University of Milan in 1989.

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.[5] She is also a member of the Italian Academy of Sciences (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei),[5] foreign associate member of the US National Academy of Sciences[6] and foreign associate of the French Academy of Science.[7]

Gianotti has worked on several CERN experiments (WA70, UA2, ALEPH, ATLAS), being involved in detector R&D and construction, software development and data analysis.

She was/is a member of several international committees, such as the Scientific Council of the CNRS[8] (France), the Physics Advisory Committee of the Fermilab Laboratory (USA), the Council of the European Physical Society, the Scientific Council of the DESY Laboratory[9] (Germany), the Scientific Advisory Committee of NIKHEF[10] (Netherlands). She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board[11] of the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon.

Higgs boson discovery[edit]

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.[12][13]

She appeared in the 2013 documentary film Particle Fever, about the work of the Large Hadron Collider.


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.

Work environment[edit]

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.[4] 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.[14] 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.[4]

Religious views[edit]

In a 2010 interview, Gianotti said that she saw no contradiction between science and faith and they belong to "two different spheres".[15] 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."[16]

Honours and awards[edit]

Gianotti was included among the “Top 100 most inspirational women” by The Guardian newspaper (UK, 2011),[17] ranked 5th in Time magazine’s Personality of the Year (USA, 2012), as well as the runner-up for Person of the Year,[18] included among the “Top 100 most influential women” by Forbes magazine (USA, 2013)[19] and considered among the “Leading Global Thinkers of 2013” by Foreign Policy magazine (USA, 2013).[20] She was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 2018.[21]

Honorary academic degrees[edit]


Comic Sans controversy[edit]

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. [35] A physicist, Alby Reid, has even started an online petition calling Microsoft to change the name of the font to Comic Cerns. [36]. Vincent Connare, the font's creator has tweeted support for this petition.[37] Gianotti had used Comic Sans in presenting information in the past, but the uproar was due largely to the importance of the material presented. [38]


  1. ^ "Fabiola Gianotti signs her contract as CERN's new Director-General". CERN Bulletin. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  2. ^ Castelvecchi, Davide (2014). "Higgs hunter will be CERN's first female director: Italian physicist Fabiola Gianotti will take the reins at the European physics powerhouse in 2016". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2014.16287.
  3. ^ "Humans of Science (HoS) | Single Post". Humans of Science (HoS). Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  4. ^ a b c McKie, Robin (2014-11-09). "Fabiola Gianotti: woman with the key to the secrets of the universe | Observer profile". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  5. ^ a b c "Honorary Professor: Fabiola Gianotti". University of Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 28 August 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  6. ^ "National Academy of Sciences Members and Foreign Associates Elected". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Quinze nouveaux associés étrangers à l'Académie des sciences" (PDF). Institut de France Académie des sciences. 25 March 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Arrêté du 29 novembre 2005 portant nomination au conseil scientifique du Centre national de la recherche scientifique". CNRS. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  9. ^ "Members Scientific Council (as of January 2015)". DESY. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  10. ^ "Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC)". NIKHEF. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  11. ^ "The members of the Scientific Advisory Board". German Commission for UNESCO. Archived from the original on 21 March 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  12. ^ "Dr Fabiola Gianotti, CERN". IOP Institute of Physics. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  13. ^ "ATLAS makes a smooth changeover at the top". CERN Courier. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  14. ^ "A Celebrated Physicist With a Passion for Music". Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  15. ^ "La signora dell'universo" (in Italian). Famiglia Cristiana. 20 August 2010.
  16. ^ ""Io, tra Dio e il Big Bang". Fabiola Gianotti, direttrice del Cern: la signora dell'Universo" (in Italian). la Repubblica. 28 December 2014.
  17. ^ "Top 100 women: science and medicine". Guardian News. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  18. ^ "Runner-Up: Fabiola Gianotti, the Discoverer". Time. Archived from the original on 21 March 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  19. ^ "#83 Fabiola Gianotti". Forbes. Archived from the original on 31 May 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  20. ^ "François Englert, Peter Higgs, and Fabiola Gianotti". The FP Group. Archived from the original on 28 August 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  21. ^ "Distinguished scientists elected as Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Teknik och naturvetenskap utser hedersdoktorer". uu.se. Uppsala universitet. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  23. ^ "EPFL awards Fabiola Gianotti honorary doctorate". EPFL. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  24. ^ "14 individuals to receive honorary degree from McGill". McGill University. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  25. ^ "Fabiola Gianotti: The Higgs boson and our life". UiO, Dep. of Phys. Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  26. ^ "Honorary graduates 2014/15". The University of Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  27. ^ "Fabiola Gianotti dottore di ricerca in Fisica dell'Ateneo fridericiano". www.primapagina.sif.it. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  28. ^ "Honorary Degrees 2010-2018 | Convocation | The University of Chicago". convocation.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  29. ^ https://www.univ-smb.fr/2018/07/26/remise-dun-doctorat-honoris-causa-a-fabiola-gianotti-directrice-generale-du-cern/
  30. ^ "Fabiola Gianotti". Biografieonline.it. Biografieonline. Archived from the original on 29 August 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  31. ^ "Premio "Enrico Fermi"". sif.it. Società Italiana di Fisica. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  32. ^ "Fabiola Gianotti awarded the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour". Niels Bohr Institute. University of Copenhagen. 1 November 2013. Archived from the original on 15 December 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  33. ^ "Laureates: Fabiola Gianotti". breakthroughprize.org. Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation. Archived from the original on 25 July 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  34. ^ "L'ambrogino d'oro a Fabiola Gianotti". INFN. Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  35. ^ http://www.designweek.co.uk/industry-voice/the-power-of-type-%28or-why-not-to-use-comic-sans-to-present-a-scientific-breakthrough%29/3034857.article
  36. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/07/06/change-name-of-comic-sans_n_1653774.html?utm_hp_ref=uk
  37. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/07/06/change-name-of-comic-sans_n_1653774.html?utm_hp_ref=uk
  38. ^ https://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2012/07/comic-sans-at-cern.html

External links[edit]