Celebrating the recipients of the 2019 ATLAS PhD Grant

Celebrating the recipients of the 2019 ATLAS PhD Grant

Fri, 15/03/2019 - 09:51


ATLAS PhD Grant Scheme Award Ceremony
The 2018 ATLAS Phd Grantees are awarded in front of the Director General, Fabiola Gianotti, and Peter Jenni, establishers of the prize in 2014. Lombard Odier is also present with its representatives as main donor of the 2018 programme. (Image: CERN)

At an award ceremony in the Globe of Science and Innovation, the recipients of the 2019 ATLAS PhD Grant were celebrated in the presence of CERN & Society donors and members of the ATLAS community. The ATLAS PhD Grant has been supporting up-and-coming talents in particle physics since 2014, and this year saw a new donor take up its cause: Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd.

The ATLAS PhD Grant offers students a unique opportunity to enhance their studies in a top-notch research environment under the supervision and training of ATLAS collaboration experts. It was established by former ATLAS spokespersons Fabiola Gianotti and Peter Jenni, using the award money from the Fundamental Physics Prize that they received in 2013.

“When Fabiola and I first received the Prize money, it was immediately clear to us that we wanted to give something special back to ATLAS,” explained Peter Jenni, speaking at the award ceremony. “We not only wanted to offer a financial stepping-stone for young students, but also to provide a unique academic opportunity based at CERN.”

Thanks to the CERN & Society Foundation and its donors, the ATLAS PhD Grant programme continues to empower the next generation of scientists five years after its establishment.


“The Grant has supported some 15 students so far, all of them sharing the same hope for a career in particle physics,” said CERN Director-General, Fabiola Gianotti. “I remember thinking as an undergraduate student that if I got a PhD fellowship, I would aim for a career in particle physics, otherwise I would have looked for another career path. So, I know from my own experience that a PhD grant can really change your life.”


During the ceremony, Peter Jenni and Gérard Felley, of Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd. presented the 2019 ATLAS PhD Grant recipients with certificates. Through their new partnership with the CERN & Society Foundation, Lombard Odier has committed to the financial support, over the next three years, of six talented ATLAS PhD students. As a leading wealth and asset manager, Lombard Odier, have always held a strong commitment to innovation and technology since its founding over two centuries ago. Fully aligned with the Firm’s Rethink Everything philosophy, this collaboration with CERN will help push the boundaries of science by investing in the next generation. Of this year’s recipients, two are directly supported by Lombard Odier.

The 2019 ATLAS PhD Grant recipients – Ana Peixoto, Giulia Rovelli, and Rongkun Wang – each gave a short speech of thanks and extracts of each can be read below.


                                            Ana Peixoto, LIP (Portugal)



My passion for physics started in high school, where I was always curious about the developments in the physics world, especially at CERN. My interest only grew after attending an International Masterclass, where I spent a day learning what particle physicists study and do in this huge collaboration.
 Now, I am looking for signs of new physics in the ATLAS Experiment. My work includes performing analyses searching for new interactions in the top-quark sector, where any evidence would be a direct proof of physics beyond the Standard Model and give us hints about the origin of the Universe. When I first joined the ATLAS Collaboration, I was working from my home institute and rarely came to CERN for more than a week per year. The opportunity given by the ATLAS PhD Grant to be based here for a year will be great to push forward my thesis work, since I will be able to easily meet with people, ask questions and profit from the multinational environment of CERN. Therefore, I would like to express my gratitude to the CERN & Society Foundation and its donors for making my dream come true. My sincere wish is these grants can be continued in order to propagate this opportunity to future ATLAS PhD students.


Giulia Rovelli, INFN (Italy)




As part of my PhD thesis, I am working on searches for Dark Matter in the ATLAS Experiment. In other words, I am trying to find out what Dark Matter is made of. I have pursued this topic of research because we know that Dark Matter makes up more than 26% of our Universe, but we know very little about it. It is a really exciting area of study and I am happy to be involved in such a search. I think that the ATLAS PhD Grant is the greatest opportunity I have ever been given. Perhaps it is not obvious to people outside the field, but to be able to spend an entire year at CERN has a huge impact both on our education and on our job prospects. It is the chance to be in the most stimulating environment of our field, meeting with world experts who can discuss and explain new ideas. In this way, we can truly be involved in the ATLAS Collaboration. We are truly grateful to everyone who has made this possible. 








 Rongkun Wang, University of Science and Technology of China


I am very honoured to receive this ATLAS PhD grant. I am from Fuzhou, on the South Sea of China, and I have always been very curious about how things work. Accordingly, I chose to study physics in the University of Science and Technology of China. My PhD subject is about the Higgs production cross section in 4-lepton final states. I started my PhD while based in China, and the distance from CERN sometimes presented challenges. I always wanted to meet the people I was talking and working with in person – rather than always relying on video-conferencing. Thanks to the Grant, I am able to join meetings and discussions face-to-face, in the same time-zone – which is certainly increasing my productivity! Also, since moving to CERN, I volunteered to join the team working on the New Small Wheel detector. This is a great new opportunity that I wouldn’t have had, were I not part of the ATLAS PhD Grant programme. I would really like to thank Lombard Odier and the CERN & Society Foundation for their support.