Prof. Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli, 2015 Laureate for Africa and the Arab States

Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli was rewarded for her key contribution to the effort that led to the detection of the Higgs Boson: the particle responsible for the creation of mass in the universe.

High Energy Physics and Nuclear Physics

Professor, Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco

Professor Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli contributed to one of the greatest discoveries in physics: proof of the existence of a subatomic particle called the Higgs Boson. It had long been theorized that neutrons and electrons could not exist unless there was another, even smaller particle that enabled them to take on mass. However, unlike other atomic components, the Higgs Boson - if, in fact, it existed - could not be observed in natural conditions. Protons would have to be forced to collide at ultra-high speed and a detector would have to record exactly what happened. In 2012, two marvels of modern science developed by a worldwide consortium of nations, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and the ATLAS experiment, created just such conditions. ATLAS focuses on the basic forces that have shaped our Universe since the beginning of time, the forces that will also determine its ultimate fate. Professor Cherkaoui El Moursli contributed significantly to the construction, simulation, test and launch of the Electromagnetic Calorimeter, one of the sub-detectors of the ATLAS experiment. To great fanfare and thanks partly to her contribution to the ATLAS detector, the existence of the Higgs Boson was indeed proven. And, along with it, new pathways for exploring the nature of matter and energy.


A true pioneer, Professor Cherkaoui El Moursli had to overcome a number of daunting obstacles to pursue a career in science. 

The first challenge was to convince my father to allow me to go to France for graduate studies. At that time, Moroccan society was still quite conservative, and most girls didn’t leave home until they got married. 

Fortunately for science, two factors fueled her determination to follow her dream: a dedicated high school teacher who encouraged her and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, a scientific wonder, which filled her with awe.


As active locally as she is internationally, Professor Cherkaoui El Moursli dedicates much of her time and energy to ensuring that science in her country is world class. Among other achievements, she organized her country’s participation in international scientific networks on the web, ensuring that Moroccan researchers have access to the latest developments in their fields as well as enabling them to publish their own findings. She was also instrumental in improving local healthcare by establishing a program for a master’s degree in medical physics, the first one in Morocco. The head of her university’s R&D, Collaboration and Partnership team, a member of Hassan II Academy of Science and Technology and a member of many academic associations, Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli is indeed - in the words of one Moroccan magazine - a “research activist”.

For Women in Science

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