Global physics research giant CERN selects first woman to lead

Italian physicist Dr. Fabiola Gianotti will be the first woman to lead the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the international research center that discovered the Higgs boson (also called the “God particle”).

Gianotti led the ATLAS experiment at CERN to the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, a particle and energy field that is able to convert matter to mass. ATLAS was one of two major teams working on the project. The discovery helps explain the formation of the physical universe, according to Reuters. Scientists analyzed data from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, a machine that cost $6 billion francs to build, to find the particle.

The CERN’s ruling council, which comprises representatives from 20 member nations, selected Gianotti to lead the institute, which employs 2,400 people and hosts 10,000 visiting scientists each year from over 113 countries. She will begin her role as director-general at CERN in 2016 and will lead the institute for five years.

Gianotti said she was proud to assume the role.

“CERN is a centre of scientific excellence and a source of pride and inspiration for physicists from all over the world, a cradle for technology and innovation, and a shining concrete example of scientific cooperation and peace,” she said.

CERN was founded in 1954 and has been at the forefront of a number of globally important scientific discoveries. British scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web at CERN in 1989 as a way to aid information-sharing in the scientific community.