Dr. Fabiola Gianotti pursued both music and science for as long as she could, but even though eventually physics won out she didn’t give up on music completely – in fact she is a pianist with a diploma from the Milan Music Conservatory to go with her doctorate in physics.
While earning her doctorate, Gianotti started working at the European Organization for Nuclear research, more commonly known as CERN, and has been at the forefront of experimental particle physics since that time. Working with the UA2 experiment and the Large Positron Collider she earned her doctorate in 1989 from the University of Milan. At CERN she has worked with various research groups and experiments and has been involved with detector research and development and construction.
Starting in the 1990’s she worked as the physics coordinator for the ATLAS collaboration at CERN, which consisted of a group of almost 3000 physicists. Elected Project Leader of the group in 2009, it was Gianotti’s job to lead the lab’s strategic planning for one of the two teams working independently using searching for evidence of Higgs particles. In this role she had the great honor of making the formal announcement of the discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs based on the experimental data gathered by the ATLAS team using the Large Hadron Collider.
On January 1, 2016 Gianotti began a five year term as the Director-General of CERN, in Geneva Switzerland. As the first woman to hold this office she is responsible for overseeing all research at the facility including its top priority – a three year run of the LHC before it is shut down for upgrading. These experiments are expected to return three times the data of the accelerator’s first run. But Gianotti stresses that CERN is not just the LHC and also has other facilities and runs other experiments including the precise measurements of rare decays and detailed studies of antimatter to name a few. She is also focused on ensuring the long-term future of CERN including building more global partnerships in order to foster a greater understanding that moves beyond the standard model.
Written by Angela Goad