CERN names first female director-general, Dr Fabiola Gianotti

4 Nov 2014

CERN's next director-general Dr Fabiola Gianotti, beside the ATLAS detector. Image via ATLAS/CERN

Starting in 2016, Dr Fabiola Gianotti will become CERN’s first female director-general after the scientific research organisation’s council voted overwhelmingly for her appointment.

The physicist was previously leader of the ATLAS experiment collaboration between March 2009 and February 2013, overseeing some of the most important physics experiments in recent years, including work with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the search for the Higgs boson particle.

The award-winning scientist is also a member of a number of international committees. She must wait until 1 January 2016, however, before she officially takes the helm of CERN in Switzerland and succeeds Prof Rolf-Dieter Heuer.

Gianotti’s reign as head of one of the world’s largest and most influential scientific bodies will last for five years and she has already spoken of her enthusiasm for taking on the role.

“It is a great honour and responsibility for me to be selected as the next CERN director-general following 15 outstanding predecessors,” said Gianotti.

“I will fully engage myself to maintain CERN’s excellence in all its attributes, with the help of everybody, including CERN council, staff and users from all over the world.”

President of the CERN council, Agnieszka Zalewska, also praised Gianotti’s work for the organisation to date, particularly her work on experimental particle physics.

“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,” Zalewska said.

“I would like to thank all the candidates for giving council such a hard decision to make, and the search committee for all its hard work over recent months.”

Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic