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Women in Science

Daniela studied for a physics degree in Italy, spent a year at CERN in Geneva before going to the US to do her PhD at Syracuse University. She worked at Purdue University for 20 years, becoming a Distinguished Professor of Physics and moving to Oxford in 2013.

Daniela Bortoletto


at the time of the interview - 2017

Daniela is a Professor in the Department of Physics and a Senior Kurti Fellow, Brasenose College. She has a daughter.


at the time of the interview -  2017

Daniela describes her school years as fortuitous as she was able to pursue her love for physics despite the economic difficulties her family faced after the death of her father. Daniela trained to be a particle physicist, doing her undergraduate degree in Italy, working for a year at CERN in Geneva and then moving to the US to do her PhD at Syracuse University. She went on to work at Purdue University, Upstate New York, searching for the Higgs Boson at the Tevatron Collider and at CERN where it was eventually discovered.

I think that to be a scientist you do have to be optimist in my opinion because really everything that could go wrong usually goes wrong, like sooner or later. And so, you really have to be persistent.

After 20 years in the US, Daniela and her husband, also a physicist, moved to Oxford in 2013 and both now work on the ATLAS experiment.   

Being the only female faculty in the physics department early on meant that the mentors Daniela had were male and she strongly feels women need encouragement because of the uneven playing field between women and men. She thinks the change in the balance between female and male physicists is changing very slowly and Athena Swan is a good, although laborious in terms of the practical work involved, exercise. She sits on the Equality and Diversity Committee and is involved in the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics which is held annually in Oxford.

For Daniela, being a scientist involves optimism, persistence and being a bit stubborn as you need to keep searching for answers. She describes her work as a pleasure and continues to have an enormous desire to learn. Daniela says one of her biggest achievements is her daughter; “the joy of my life”. Nationality/ethnic group: Italian.