The Italian-German particle physicist and Nikhef staff member Pamela Ferrari has been appointed professor of High Energy Physics at Radboud University in Nijmegen as of May 1.
Ferrari is an experimental physicist and holds a leading position at the ATLAS experiment at CERN in Geneva, the world’s largest particle detector. As of this fall, she is physics coordinator at ATLAS, an international collaboration of more than 5,000 researchers that discovered the Higgs particle in 2012.
Since its discovery, the higgs particle has played a central role in contemporary particle research, as it determines the mass of all elementary particles.
Ferrari is the first woman with this scientific lead role at ATLAS. She is an expert in measurements of the properties of the new Higgs particle. Previously, she headed ATLAS’s publications committee, which watches over the publication of the experiment’s hundreds of scientific papers each year.
Pamela Ferrari studied physics in Milan, and worked, among other things, at the DELPHI experiment at CERN at the LEP accelerator, the predecessor of the current LHC accelerator in Geneva. After her PhD, she worked for Indiana University on the OPAL experiment at CERN. As a CERN Fellow and later as a Nikhef postdoc, she was involved in the design and construction of the ATLAS detector. Since 2010, she has been appointed as a staff member and principal investigator at Nikhef.
In her current research, Pamela Ferrari and her Nikhef team are studying the so-called self-coupling of the Higgs particle by colliding protons in the LHC accelerator at CERN: the way in which the particle also fixes its own mass. This is a fundamental property in particle theory.
Mysterious new thing
Ferrari wholeheartedly acknowledges being captivated by the Higgs particle for a long time. “I can get quite annoyed with people who pretend that physics is finished after the discovery of the Higgs particle. Of course it isn’t. We’ve found a mysterious new thing, a foggy continent. Surely then you want to find out everything about it? Are there mountains? What lives there? I can’t imagine you wouldn’t want to know then.”