Sau Lan Wu

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Sau Lan Wu
Other names吴秀兰
Alma materVassar College
Scientific career
Fieldsparticle physics
InstitutionsUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison

Sau Lan Wu (Chinese: 吳秀蘭) is a Chinese American particle physicist and the Enrico Fermi Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She made important contributions towards the discovery of the J/psi particle, which provided experimental evidence for the existence of the charm quark, and the gluon, the vector boson of the strong force in the Standard Model of physics.[1] Recently, her team located at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), using data collected at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), was part of the international effort in the discovery of a boson consistent with the Higgs boson.[2]

Early years[edit]

Wu was born in Hong Kong and went to Vassar College in 1960 with a full scholarship for her undergraduate degree.[3] Initially she dreamed of becoming a painter, but was inspired by Marie Curie to devote her life to physics. During her years in Vassar, she spent a summer at Brookhaven National Laboratory where the science of particle physics captivated her.[4] Reminiscence of her years in Vassar, Wu relished the experience and recollected her adjustment to the American society and culture as a difficult but positive one. During her freshman year she and other Vassar students were invited to the White House for an Easter function and met Jacqueline Kennedy, a Vassar alumna (class of 1951). She first experienced racial discrimination when visiting the Supreme Court and was confronted with the choice of "black" or "white" on the door to the restroom.

Academic background[edit]

Wu graduated from Vassar College (1963) with a B.A. in Physics.[5] After earning an M.A. (1964) and a Ph.D. (1970) in Physics from Harvard University, she conducted research at MIT, DESY and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is now the Enrico Fermi Distinguished Professor of Physics.[5] Since 1986, Wu has been the Visiting Scientist at CERN conducting research with the LHC as part of the ATLAS team.[6]



Wu was part of the team led by Samuel C.C. Ting at MIT who discovered the J/psi particle in 1974,[6] for which Ting was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics together with Burton Richter.[7]


Wu was a key contributor to the discovery of gluon.[8] For her effort, Wu and her collaborators were awarded the 1995 European Physical Society High Energy and Particle Physics Prize.[9]

Higgs boson[edit]

Wu is a group leader working on the ATLAS experiment, one of the two main detectors at CERN (the other one is CMS).[3] Her team specializes in studying simulations of particle collisions that mimic the data that will be produced by the LHC based on current theories.[10] On July 4, 2012, CERN announced the discovery of a boson consistent with the predicted characters of Higgs boson.[2][dead link] [11] This discovery completes the Standard Model of particle physics which explains the visible Universe.[3][12] Wu is credited as a significant contributor to the discovery.[3][13]

PhD Students[edit]

Wu has mentored more than 50 PhD students, which she counts as one of her major accomplishments.[3]


Personal life[edit]

Wu lives in Geneva and conducts research in CERN. She is married to Tai Tsun Wu of Harvard University.[6]


  1. ^ S. Braibant; G. Giacomelli; M. Spurio (2009). Particles and Fundamental Interactions: An Introduction to Particle Physics. Springer. pp. 313–314. ISBN 978-94-007-2463-1.
  2. ^ a b "ATLAS and the Higgs". CERN. October 2012. Archived from the original on 15 February 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e "Sau Lan Wu's Three Major Physics Discoveries and Counting". Quanta Magazine. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
  4. ^ Dawson, Lindsay (Summer 2003). "A Charmed Life". Vassar Alumnae Quarterly. Retrieved 16 January 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b "The Joy of Discovery: Sau Lan Wu '63 - Vassar, the Alumnae/i Quarterly". Retrieved 2020-03-07.
  6. ^ a b c d Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics at UCLA (16 March 2001). "Sau Lan Wu". Retrieved 16 January 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1976". Nobel Prize. Retrieved 6 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Ellis, John (July 2009). "Those were the days: discovering the gluon". CERN Courier. 49 (6): 15–17.
  9. ^ "The High Energy and Particle Physics Prizes". European Physical Society. Retrieved 6 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Sakai, Jill. "Heart of the Matter". University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved 6 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Charley, Sarah. "When was the Higgs actually discovered?". symmetry magazine. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
  12. ^ "A question of spin for the new boson". CERN. 6 March 2013. Archived from the original on 6 December 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Meet Sau Lan Wu, the physicist who helped discover three fundamental particles". Massive Science. Retrieved 2020-03-07.

External links[edit]