Fabiola Gianotti
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Fabiola Gianotti
Fabiola Gianotti
Dr Fabiola Gianotti.jpg
Fabiola Gianotti at CERN in December 2015
Born (1960-10-29) 29 October 1960 (age 60)
Rome, Italy
Alma materUniversity of Milan
Known for
Scientific career
FieldsParticle physics

Fabiola Gianotti (Italian: [fa'bi:ola d?a'n?tti]; born 29 October 1960) is an Italian experimental particle physicist, and the first woman to be Director-General at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland.[4][5] Her mandate began on 1 January 2016 and runs for a period of five years. At its 195th Session in 2019, the CERN Council selected Gianotti for an unprecedented second term as Director-General. Her second five-year term began on 1 January 2021 and go on until 2025. This is the first time in CERN's history that a Director-General has been appointed for a full second term.[6]

Early life and education

From an early age, Gianotti was interested in nature and the world around her. Her mother, from Sicily, encouraged Gianotti in the fine arts. Her father, an acclaimed geologist from Piedmont, encouraged her early love of learning and encouraged her scientific interests.[7][8]

Gianotti found her passion for scientific research after reading a biography on Marie Curie. Previously, she had studied the humanities, focusing on music and philosophy at the Liceo classico.[9][10] Gianotti received a PhD in experimental particle physics from the Physics department of the University of Milan in 1989.[11]

Life and career

Academic and professional career

Since 1996, Gianotti has worked at CERN, starting with a fellowship and continuing to become a full-time research physicist. In 2009 she was promoted to project leader and Spokesperson of the ATLAS Collaboration. She also worked on the WA70, UA2 and ALEPH experiments at CERN, where she was involved in detector development, software development and data analysis. In 2016 she was elected to be the first female Director-General of CERN. She has since been reappointed for a second term, which will end in 2025.[6][12]

She has been a member of several international committees, such as the Scientific Council of the CNRS[13] in France, the Physics Advisory Committee of Fermilab in the USA, the Council of the European Physical Society, the Scientific Council of the DESY Laboratory[14] in Germany, and the Scientific Advisory Committee of NIKHEF[15] in the Netherlands. She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board[14] of the UN Secretary-General. She was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 2018.[16]

Gianotti is also a member of the Italian Academy of Sciences (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei),[] a foreign associate member of the US National Academy of Sciences and foreign associate of the French Academy of Science. She was also elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society in 2019.

Gianotti also appeared in the 2013 documentary film Particle Fever about work at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Higgs boson discovery

During Gianotti's time as Spokesperson of ATLAS, the experiment was one of two involved in the observation of the Higgs boson. On 4 July 2012 Gianotti announced the discovery of the particle. Until the observation, the Higgs boson was a purely theoretical part of the Standard Model of particle physics. Gianotti's deep understanding of the ATLAS experiment, and her leadership, were recognised as major factors in the discovery.[8][17]


Gianotti is the author or co-author of more than 500 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals.[18] She has given more than 30 invited plenary talks at the major international conferences in the field.[]

Some of her most notable publications include "Observation of a New Particle in the Search for the Standard Model Higgs Boson with the ATLAS Detector at the LHC", where CERN presented the Higgs boson observation,[19] "Searches for supersymmetry at high-energy colliders: the past, the present and the present and the future" in the IOP Science, New Journal of Physics,[20] and "Calorimetry for particle physics" in the APS Physics Journal.[21]

Work environment

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.[10] Gianotti was the first female Director-General 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, saying "I cannot say myself that I ever felt discriminated against ... Perhaps I was but I didn't realize it." Gianotti is helping break down barriers the male-dominated field created for aspiring female scientists.[22] 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.[10]

Honours and awards

Gianotti was included among the "Top 100 most inspirational women" by The Guardian newspaper in 2011,[23] ranked 5th in Time magazine's Personality of the Year in 2012, was the runner-up for Time magazine's Person of the Year in the same year,[24] was included among the "Top 100 most influential women" by Forbes magazine in 2013,[9] and was considered among the "Leading Global Thinkers of 2013" by Foreign Policy magazine in 2013.[25]

She has received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Uppsala,[26] École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL),[27] McGill University,[28] Oslo University,[29] University of Edinburgh,[30] University of Naples Federico II,[31] University of Chicago,[32] University of Savoy,[33] and the Weizmann Institute of Science.[34]

Since 2013, she is an honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh.[35]

Comic Sans controversy

When CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, some controversy sprang from Gianotti's use of the Comic Sans typeface in the presentation of the results.[44] Alby Reid, a physicist, started an online petition calling for Microsoft to change the name of the font to Comic Cerns.[45] Vincent Connare, the font's creator, tweeted support for the petition.[45] Gianotti had used Comic Sans in previous presentations, but the controversy was generated due to the importance of the material presented.[46]

Personal life

Gianotti is a trained ballerina and plays the piano. She has never been married; in a New York Times profile on Gianotti, the Dutch physicist Rende Steerenberg described her as someone who "has dedicated her life to physics...sure, she has made sacrifices."[47]

In a 2010 interview, Gianotti said that she saw no contradiction between science and faith, and that they belong to "two different spheres".[48] 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."[49]

As of September 2020, she is a member of the Italian Aspen Institute.[50]


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  6. ^ a b "CERN Council appoints Fabiola Gianotti for second term of office as CERN Director General". CERN. November 6, 2019. Retrieved 2020.
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  18. ^ Fabiola Gianotti on INSPIRE-HEP Edit this at Wikidata
  19. ^ The ATLAS Collaboration (Aug 31, 2012). "Observation of a New Particle in the Search for the Standard Model Higgs Boson with the ATLAS Detector at the LHC". European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern). 716 (1): 1-29. arXiv:1207.7214. Bibcode:2012PhLB..716....1A. doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2012.08.020.
  20. ^ Gianotti, Fabiola (August 2002). "Searches for supersymmetry at high-energy colliders: the past, the present and the future". New Journal of Physics. 4 (1): 63. Bibcode:2002NJPh....4...63G. doi:10.1088/1367-2630/4/1/363. ISSN 1367-2630.
  21. ^ Fabjan, Christian W.; Gianotti, Fabiola (2003-10-15). "Calorimetry for particle physics". Reviews of Modern Physics. 75 (4): 1243-1286. Bibcode:2003RvMP...75.1243F. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.75.1243.
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  28. ^ "14 individuals to receive honorary degree from McGill". McGill University. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 2015.
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  31. ^ "Fabiola Gianotti dottore di ricerca in Fisica dell'Ateneo fridericiano". www.primapagina.sif.it. Retrieved .
  32. ^ "Honorary Degrees 2010-2018 | Convocation | University of Chicago". convocation.uchicago.edu. Archived from the original on 2018-11-07. Retrieved .
  33. ^ "Remise d'un doctorat honoris causa à Fabiola Gianotti, directrice générale du CERN - Université Savoie Mont Blanc - Formation - Recherche". Univ-smb.fr. Retrieved .
  34. ^ "PH.D. HONOREES". weizmann.ac.il.
  35. ^ "Honorary Professor: Fabiola Gianotti". University of Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 28 August 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  36. ^ "Fabiola Gianotti". Biografieonline.it. Biografieonline. Archived from the original on 29 August 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  37. ^ "Premio "Enrico Fermi"". sif.it. Società Italiana di Fisica. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 2015.
  38. ^ "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 2015.
  39. ^ "Laureates: Fabiola Gianotti". breakthroughprize.org. Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation. Archived from the original on 25 July 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  40. ^ "L'ambrogino d'oro a Fabiola Gianotti". INFN. Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  41. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2018: Who is on the list?". BBC News. 19 November 2018. Retrieved 2019.
  42. ^ "Pontecorvo Prize for 2019".
  43. ^ "Il Papa chiama Fabiola Gianotti alla Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze". la Repubblica (in Italian). 2020-09-29. Retrieved .
  44. ^ Gosling, Emily (July 5, 2012). "The power of type (or why not to use Comic Sans to present a scientific breakthrough)".
  45. ^ a b "Change Name Of Comic Sans To 'Comic Cerns' Say Physicists After Higgs Boson Discovery | HuffPost UK". Huffingtonpost.co.uk. 2012-07-06. Retrieved .
  46. ^ "Higgs in Comic Sans: the right font for physics?". Archived from the original on 2017-11-18. Retrieved .
  47. ^ Sciolino, Elaine (2018-03-07). "A Celebrated Physicist With a Passion for Music - The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved .
  48. ^ "La signora dell'universo" (in Italian). Famiglia Cristiana. 20 August 2010.
  49. ^ ""Io, tra Dio e il Big Bang". Fabiola Gianotti, direttrice del Cern: la signora dell'Universo" (in Italian). la Repubblica. 28 December 2014.
  50. ^ executive Committee, aspeninstitute.it/

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