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Michelle Taylor, Editor-in-ChiefThe media is often accused of being perpetrators of bad news—that is, it takes every opportunity to report negative news. Take your local news channel, for example. I’d bet that on any given night, negative news reports outweigh positive reports by a ratio of 10:1.

But, with the year coming to a close, I want to take time to highlight some of the positive strides society, specifically women in science, have made in 2014.

In November, CERN announced that Fabiola Gianotti, the Italian physicist who first revealed to the world that the Higgs boson existed, will be the next director general of this preeminent European physics lab. She will take the reins in January 2016 as the 16th director general—and the first female in the role.

“One of CERN’s strengths is that it celebrates diversity—diversity in all terms—ethnicity, age, gender, traditions, culture,” Gianotti said at her introductory press conference. “Diversity is a richness for mankind. For me, it’s quite normal that at some point in CERN history we would have a woman as director general.”

Gianotti has been a research physicist at CERN since 1994, having worked on a variety of experiments comprising detector R&D, software development and data analysis. From March 2009 to February 2013, she held the elected position of leader of the ATLAS experiment, covering the period of time in which LHC experiments ATLAS and CMS announced the long-awaited discovery of the Higgs boson.

Gianotti, who was seated next to Agnieszka Zalewska, the female president of the CERN council, at the press conference, focused on encouraging young female scientists to undertake fundamental research, as well as ensuring that female scientists are presented with the same opportunities as their male colleagues. Gianotti and Zalewska both agreed that role models and examples of high-powered women in science are key to inspiring young girls toward a career in physics.

“The element that pushed me into physics was reading Marie Curie’s biography at 17 years old,” said Gianotti. “I was impressed by (her) domestic way of doing science. She would prepare the soup in the kitchen and then rush to a nearby room to check a radioactive sample. This kind of science (as) part of life was very impressive and appealing.”

The next positive role model is floating approximately 268 miles above our heads. On Nov. 23, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts successfully docked at the International Space Station. Among those arriving on board was Italian Air Force Captain Samantha Cristoforetti, who gained the honor of becoming Italy’s first female astronaut. The new astronauts joined three others, including Russian Elena Serova. Cristoforetti’s arrival means it is the second time in the station’s 16-year history that two women have been aboard on long-term missions. Cristoforetti is scheduled to be on the ISS until May 2015.

The last woman I want to highlight is Stanford Professor of Mathematics Maryam Mirzakhani, who is the first woman ever to be awarded the Fields Medal. The medal—the most prestigious honor in the industry and widely regarded as the Nobel Prize of mathematics—remarkably has never been presented to a woman since its establishment in 1936—until now.

The award, presented to Mirzakhani on Aug. 13, recognizes her original contributions to the fields of geometry and dynamical systems, particularly in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces, such as spheres, the surfaces of doughnuts and hyperbolic objects. Although her work is considered “pure mathematics” and is mostly theoretical, it has implications for physics and quantum field theory.

“This is a great honor,” Mirzakhani said. “I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians. I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.”

Here’s hoping Mirzakhani is right, and that the future is even brighter for women than 2014 has proven to be.

Happy New Year!

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