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Italian physicist is first female Director General of CERN

In early November, CERN announced that Fabiola Gianotti has been nominated as the new Director-General of CERN (International Organisation for Nuclear Research). The first female head of CERN will replace Rolf Heuer as of January 2016, for a five-year mandate. FCT congratulates the Italian physicist in her upcoming role as head of one of the organisations that has played a major part in the internationalisation of Portuguese research. Fabiola Gianotti is well known to the Portuguese particle physics community, especially due the participation of national research teams in the ATLAS experiment.

With a career as a CERN researcher since 1987, Fabiola Gianotti lead the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) ATLAS experiment, from March 2009 to February 2013. In 2012, ATLAS was one of the experiments that announced the discovery of the much sought after Higgs boson, which led to the Nobel Prize for Physics awarded to François Englert and Peter Higgs in 2013. More than 3000 physicists take part in the ATLAS experiment, from 174 institutions, in 38 countries, including Portugal.

According to Agnieszka Zalewska, President of the Council that elected Fabiola Gianotti, “It was Dr Gianotti’s vision for CERN’s future as a world leading accelerator laboratory, coupled with her in-depth knowledge of both CERN and the field of experimental particle physics that led us to this outcome.”

Several companies and research centres in Portugal collaborate with CERN, securing privileged access to state-of-the-art equipment and cutting edge technological facilities, which boost the international impact of the research that is carried out.

Research centres across the country collaborate with CERN. In Lisbon, the main users are the Laboratório de Instrumentação e Física Experimental de Partículas (LIP), the Instituto de Plasmas e Fusão Nuclear (IPFN), the Centro de Ciências e Tecnologias Nucleares (C2TN) and the Centro de Física Teórica de Partículas (CFTP). In Guimarães, in the north, the o Institute for Nanostructures, Nanomodelling and Nanofabrication (i3N) and in Aveiro, the Centre for Research in Ceramics and Composite Materials (CICECO) also have strong collaborations with CERN.