PhD honoris causa recipient: Prof. Peter Jenni

Particle physicist and a founding father of the ATLAS experiment


People behind the science

Date: October 30, 2017
Weizmann homepage

An experimental particle physicist-turned spokesperson, Prof. Peter Jenni is best known as one of the ATLAS experiment's 'founding fathers' at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC), being centrally involved in discoveries of some of the most fundamental ingredients of the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

Jenni was born in Switzerland. An insatiable curiosity and fascination with the fundamental laws of physics drove him to study the field at the University of Bern (graduating 1973). He continued on to pursue a PhD at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETHZ), receiving his degree in 1976

He first came to CERN as a summer student in the very early 1970s, participating in experiments at the Synchrocyclotron, at the Proton Synchrotron, and later, as an ETHZ research associate, at the Intersecting Storage Rings – the first high-energy hadron collider. Following a term as a research associate at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre, he joined the CERN staff in the UA2 experiment at the super proton synchrotron in 1980. From 1991, he acted as the unofficial spokesperson of a LHC proto-collaboration, which developed a general-purpose detector concept. In 1995, he became the A Toroidal LHC Apparatus (ATLAS) official project leader – a position he was re-elected to several times thereafter

Launched in 1992, the ATLAS experiment is an international collaboration involving some 3,000 physicists from 182 institutions in 38 countries. ATLAS is one of two large detectors at the particle accelerator that succeeded in delivering experimental evidence of the existence of the Higgs particle and is indispensable for the future research of the boson. Jenni was a moving force in the ATLAS project from its very start until 2009, as collaboration leader and spokesperson, and was directly involved in the experimental work leading to the discoveries of the W and Z bosons in the 1980s and the Higgs boson in 2012.

Jenni's major contributions to the field of experimental particle physics are reflected, among other achievements, by the approximately 800 publications he has co-authored. He also played an important role in accepting Israel as the first non-European member state of CERN.

Jenni holds honorary doctorates from the University of Stockholm, the University of Copenhagen, ETH Zurich, the University of Nova Gorica (Slovenia), the University of Bern (Switzerland), Aix-Marseille University (France), Universidad Catolica de Chile (Chile), and Tbilisi State University (Georgia). His numerous honors and awards further include the Swiss Greinacher Prize (1998), the Slovak Gold Medal of the Comenius University (1999), the Charles University Silver Medal (2001), the Czech Academy of Sciences Ernst Mach Honorary Medal (2012), and the Julius Wess Award (2013). He also won a share of the 2013 Special Fundamental Physics Prize, a share of the 2013 European Physical Society High Energy Physics Prize, and a share of the W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics by the American Physical Society in 2017. Prof. Jenni used his award earnings to co-create the ATLAS PhD Grant, which sponsors a one-year study program for three PhD students at CERN.