Jenni and Gianotti Launch ATLAS PhD Scholarship Program

When Peter Jenni and Fabiola Gianotti received the Special Fundamental Physics Prize (FPP) both immediately knew they wanted to use the funds to help the next generation of scientists. Almost as quickly they understood that the collaboration nearest to their hearts – ATLAS – provides the perfect environment to do so.

Jenni and Gianotti were among the seven CERN scientists awarded the FPP in 2013 for their leadership roles in the decades-long endeavor that led to the discovery of the Higgs boson, and they have donated the entirety of their prizes to education and humanitarian programs.

At CERN, Jenni and Gianotti have created a special ATLAS PhD grant initiative. The scholarship will cover two years of PhD thesis funding for about eight talented and motivated young researchers, with an emphasis on choosing those from environments with limited financial resources. The students’ first year will be at CERN, the second back at their home universities.

The ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN searches for new discoveries in the head-on collisions of protons at extraordinarily high energies. Along with CMS, its sister experiment at the LHC, ATLAS announced the discovery of a new particle compatible with the long-sought Higgs boson in July 2012.

“Working directly at the very frontier of physics and technology and exploring unknown grounds is realizing a dream for many students,” said Jenni, who is considered one of the “founding fathers” of ATLAS in the early 1990s and was its spokesperson until 2009. “CERN and ATLAS offer this almost unique and highly motivating possibility.”

Jenni and Gianotti already have had the pleasure of awarding the first three fellowships. The students – from Argentina, Armenia and China – are currently active in ATLAS research groups at their home universities. They will move to Geneva and begin their PhD work in early 2014.

“The success of ATLAS is based on getting together as many talents as possible,” said Gianotti, who served as ATLAS spokesperson from 2009 to 2013. “For the young students it is a great ‘school’ for working closely with others from different countries and cultures.”

Jenni and Gianotti know from personal experience the deep and lasting impact of being at CERN as a young person. Long before they became leaders in their field, both came to CERN as students and left as inspired future scientists.

“Spending significant time at CERN during my master thesis was one of the most wonderful experience of my life,” Gianotti said. “It gave a strong push to my motivation to continue research in particle physics.”

Finally, in addition to being a place where the mysteries of the Universe are being explored and uncovered, ATLAS and CERN are invaluable to students and society in an equally important sense.

“Basic science can bring nations together,” Jenni said. “It is a seed to prepare future leaders to cooperate, not only for science, but for a better world.”