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Celebrating Female Scientists: Sau Lan Wu

We're celebrating Women's History Month by highlighting female scientists! Each Wednesday of the month on the blog, we'll feature a new female scientist that is changing our world as we know it (also featured on our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter every Thursday of the month). Our fifth and final highlighted female scientist is Sau Lan Wu; learn about her work and accomplishments below!

Sau Lan Wu is a Chinese American particle physicist and the Enrico Fermi Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She made important contributions toward the discovery of the J/psi particle, which provided experimental evidence for the existence of the charm quark (a type of elementary particle) and the gluon (the vector boson of the strong force in the Standard Model of physics). Recently, her team located at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), using data collected at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), was part of the international effort in the discovery of a boson consistent with the Higgs boson.

In 1960, Wu went to Vassar College in Hong Kong with a full scholarship for her undergraduate degree. Initially, she dreamed of becoming a painter but was inspired by Marie Curie to devote her life to physics. During her years at Vassar, she spent a summer at Brookhaven National Laboratory where the science of particle physics captivated her. During her freshman year, she and other Vassar students were invited to the White House for an Easter function and met Jacqueline Kennedy, a Vassar alumna. Wu graduated from Vassar Collage in 1963 with a Bachelor's degree in Physics. She also earned her Master's degree in Physics (1964) and a Ph.D. in Physics (1970) from Harvard University.

After earning her Ph.D., she conducted research at MIT, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is now the Enrico Fermi Distinguished Professor of Physics. Since 1986, Wu has been the Visiting Scientist at CERN conducting research with the LHC as part of the ATLAS team.

Wu has many achievements, including being a part of the team led by Samuel C.C. Ting at MIT who discovered the J/psi particle in 1974, for which Ting was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics together with Burton Richter. She was also a key contributor to the discovery of the gluon, a particle that blinds (or 'glues') quarks together to form protons and neutrons. For her effort, Wu and her collaborators were awarded the 1995 European Physical Society High Energy and Particle Physics Prize. Wu's team in Wisconsin was the first American group to join the ATLAS Collaboration at CERN in 1993. On July 4, 2012, CERN announced the discovery of a boson consistent with the predicted characteristics of Higgs boson.

If you haven't seen our other blogs this month that highlight other female scientists, be sure to check those out!

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