Nikhef physicist Pamela Ferrari new coordinator of ATLAS experiment

17 February 2021

Nikhef particle physicist Pamela Ferrari has been chosen as the new physics coordinator of the ATLAS experiment at CERN, the world’s largest particle detector. This was announced on Wednesday.

Ferrari, Italian-German by birth, is the first woman ever to lead the physics program of the particle experiment. She has been associated with ATLAS for quite some time, currently as a staff member and researcher at Nikhef in Amsterdam. In recent years she already led the experiment’s publication committee, a prestigious but intensive task often involving more than a hundred scientific articles per year.

In 2012 Ferrari was heavily involved as a researcher in the discovery of the Higgs particle, by ATLAS and the CMS experiment at the LHC accelerator at CERN. Her current research also focuses on the Higgs particle. “The discovery of the particle was not the end of a quest, but the beginning. It’s like a new continent. We know it’s there. But are there mountains? What is the weather like?” she said earlier in an interview with the Nikhef magazine Dimensies.

A physics coordinator of a large physics project like ATLAS mainly oversees and organizes the analyses of the measurements made with the particle detector. This is primarily an organizing function, in a collaboration of several thousand scientists. In addition, the physics coordinator plays an essential role in the preparation of scientific publications from ATLAS.

Photos of the massive mural of the ATLAS detector at CERN Point 1 painted by artist Josef Kristofoletti. This mural was commissioned by the ATLAS Experiment, and it shows on two walls the detector with a collision event superimposed. The event on the large wall shows an actual event recorded in ATLAS; it shows a Z boson decay to two muons.

ATLAS, like many other experiments, elects new coordinators for the experiment every two years. Ferrari will function as deputy physics coordinator for the first two years, and then as first coordinator for two years. On Wednesday, she received the most votes of four candidates.

Clara Nellist.

In the same round of elections, Nikhef physicist Clara Nellist was appointed Wednesday as “liaison for diversity and inclusion” at ATLAS. The British-born Nellist is a post-doc in the Nikhef group at Radboud University Nijmegen and currently stationed at CERN in Geneva. She has been active in the field of equal rights in physics for many years, as well as being very active in outreach activities to the general public.

Nikhef director Stan Bentvelsen is pleased with the appointments and calls them an honor for the institute. ‘We can be proud even as a country that our people are allowed to hold such prominent positions in large international experiments like ATLAS.’

Currently Nikhef physicist Niels Tuning is acting physics coordinator at the LHCb experiment at CERN. Until last year Nikhef physicist Marco van Leeuwen was physics coordinator at the ALICE experiment, also at CERN Geneva.