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Senators for life

Elena Cattaneo is greeted by President Napolitano

MARKUS PöSSELElena Cattaneo is greeted by President NapolitanoMARKUS PöSSEL

Carlo Rubbia, 79, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, and neurobiologist Elena Cattaneo, 50, an expert in stem cells, were appointed senators for life by the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano. Every Italian president may appoint up to five senators for life based on their achievements in the social, scientific, artistic or literary areas, but it is not very common for researchers to be chosen. Rubbia shared the 1984 Nobel Prize with Simon van der Meer from the Netherlands (1925-2011) for the discovery of the W and Z bosons, or carrier particles of so-called weak interactions. Between 1989 and 1993 he was director of CERN, the acronym for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Carlo Rubbia


Elena Cattaneo was trained and majored in pharmacy studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she worked for three years. She leads a laboratory at the University of Milan that conducts research on stem cells in neurodegenerative diseases; recently she fought against a stem cell therapy whose effectiveness had not been proven, the Stamina method, which was funded by the Italian Parliament in May.

Before her, only two women have been appointed senators for life: Camilla Ravera (1889-1988), founder of the Italian Communist Party, and neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012), winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine. In addition to Carlo Rubbia and Elena Cattaneo, architect Renzo Piano, 75, was appointed senator. His best known work is the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris; and conductor Claudio Abbado, 80.