This past April, Lia Merminga made history, becoming the first female director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, better known as Fermilab.
Merminga’s Scientific Journey
The internationally-renowned accelerator physicist grew up in Greece, and had a passion for the field at an early age.
“You can use mathematics to describe the complex, physical phenomena around us,” said Merminga. “To me that was amazing, so by the age of 16, I knew I wanted to do physics.”
After receiving an undergraduate degree from the University of Athens, she was inspired by friends and family to continue her education. She moved to the United States to pursue a PhD in physics at the University of Michigan.
Merminga racked up an impressive resume, holding leadership positions at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California and TRIUMF in Vancouver.
“The holistic experience of traveling around the world has shaped to some extent who I am as a scientist and as a Fermilab director,” said Merminga. “The appreciation of integrating views from around the world serves me very well in my job now.
Fermilab is currently working on a variety of projects, ranging from studying neutron star particles to experiments regarding the detection of dark matter.
“To enable all of these science thrusts, we have world leading capabilities in accelerators, detectors and scientific computing,” said Merminga.
Six Months as Director
When Merminga first began as director in April, she made it her goal to meet every Fermilab employee. Six months later, she says she’s almost done with the tall task of meeting the more than 1,700 scientists and engineers.
“I think people, our employees, our staff is the best resource we have,” said Merminga. “I started this job wanting to know what people are thinking, what ideas they have and what they see as an opportunity to make Fermilab a better place.”
In her historic role, she hopes to be a trailblazer for other women in the physics field.
“I want Fermilab to succeed in order to send the message to other women who come after me that they can realize their dreams. Once they set their mind to accomplishing something, nothing can stop them.”
Naperville News 17’s Will Payne reports.
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