Posted on 11/01/2013
Dr Fabiola Giannotti
Fabiola Gianotti - The discoverer
Dr Fabiola Giannotti, the spokesperson of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider – one of the two large experimental teams that announced the discovery of the long-sought Higgs particle in July 2012 – was one of the Runner-Up personalities for Time Magazine's Person of the Year award. Fabiola was one of 5 people that came second to this year's winner, a certain Barack Obama. More on this story (including how toothache almost stopped the announcement of the Higgs particle discovery!) is available here.
It's definitely been a good year for Particle Physics: the Higgs boson itself was awarded "Particle of the Year" (!) status by Time magazine. In addition, Dr Gianotti and Dr Peter Jenni (the previous ATLAS experiment spokesperson) were co-recipients of a Special Fundamental Physics Prize, awarded by the Milner Foundation, for major scientific breakthroughs (http://www.fundamentalphysicsprize.org/).
The Higgs particle was theoretically predicted almost 50 years ago, to explain the origin of mass of elementary particles. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a 27 km-long ring to accelerate and collide protons at extremely high energies, and is located at CERN (the European Laboratory for Particle Physics) in Geneva, Switzerland. The ATLAS experiment is a very large and sophisticated particle detector, designed to study the outcome of the proton-proton collisions in the LHC.
The RHUL Centre for Particle Physics includes a group of about 20 physicists (PhD students, post-docs, engineers and academics) that forms part of the world-wide ATLAS collaboration of 180 universities and about 3000 physicists. The ATLAS group at RHUL is responsible for parts of the trigger and data acquisition system of the experiment, and is directly involved in the search for the Higgs particle, the study of the properties of the top-quark, and searches for evidence of extra dimensions and for new particles such as the Graviton.