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Primatologist Jane Goodall Awarded Honorary Doctorate

The University of Zurich is celebrating its 187th anniversary digitally for the first time, awarding honorary doctorates to screenwriter Simone Schmid and film-maker Stefan Haupt, legal expert Heinz Mohnhaupt as well as labor economics specialist Claudia Goldin. Further honorary doctorates have gone to medical scientists Werner Bauer and Marcel Tanner, historian Elisabeth Joris and behavioral scientists Jane Goodall. Physician Giorgio Noseda and Peter F. Weibel, former president of the UZH Foundation’s board of trustees, have been appointed honorary senators.


The pioneer of primatological behavioural research, Dr. Jane Goodall, will receive an honorary doctorate from the UZH. (Picture Vincent Calmel / Jane Goodall Institute Switzerland)
The pioneer of primatological behavioural research, Dr. Jane Goodall, will receive an honorary doctorate from the UZH. (Picture Vincent Calmel / Jane Goodall Institute Switzerland)

For the first time, the Dies academicus celebrations marking the founding of the University of Zurich will not be held in the festive setting of the main lecture hall, but as a virtual event with a series of videos for people to follow from their homes.

Appeal by Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin

In his message to the academic community, Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, gave an urgent appeal: “We need your research to help us solve the many problems of today, we need your knowledge to help us make well-informed decisions, and we need your ideas to help us develop ground-breaking projects.” The Federal Councilor called on researchers to help reshape the future and provide fact-based knowledge and skills – “so that we will be stronger tomorrow than we were yesterday.”

UZH contributing to tackling the pandemic

In her own video message, President ad interim Gabriele Siegert added that the Institute of Medical Virology had developed a coronavirus test at an early stage and was thus able to carry more and more tests per day. The Travel Clinic was repurposed as a coronavirus testing center within a very short time: “We are thus playing an active role in tackling the pandemic.” The interim president also highlighted further milestones of the past year: In the Fall Semester, more 26,438 students were enrolled at UZH, an increase of 600 compared to the previous year. Eleven UZH researchers were awarded ERC Grants by the European Union. Together with the University of Geneva, UZH launched the National Center of Competence in Research “Evolving Language” and is involved in the pioneering DIZH project, which aims to bolster digitalization in research and education.

Gabriele Siegert, UZH Rector ad interim, explains the milestones of the past year. (Picture UZH)
Gabriele Siegert, UZH Rector ad interim, explains the milestones of the past year.

Eight honorary doctorates awarded

The seven faculties at UZH awarded the following honorary doctorates: 

  • The Faculty of Theology honored Stefan Haupt, who directed the Swiss film Zwingli, and Simone Schmid, who wrote the film’s screenplay, for their work, which is characterized by scientific curiosity, humanist values and a focus on exploring the meaning of life.
  • The Faculty of Law awarded the honorary title to Dr. Heinz Mohnhaupt from the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt for his accomplishments as a researcher of the history of law and as a mentor for junior researchers.
  • The Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics honored Harvard professor of economics Dr. Claudia Goldin. The economic historian and a labor economist’s research covers topics such as immigration, income inequality, technological change and the economic gender gap, including work-life balance for women in academia.
  • The Faculty of Medicine presented the title to Dr. med. Werner Bauer, president of the Swiss Institute for Medical Training and Continuing Education (SWIF), for his achievements in shaping medical education and upholding academic values.
  • The Vetsuisse Faculty honored Prof. Dr. Marcel Tanner, professor emeritus of epidemiology and medical parasitology at the University of Basel. Professor Tanner headed up the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) and is supporting the fight against diseases of poverty.
  • The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences awarded an honorary doctorate to Swiss historian Dr. Elisabeth Joris for her research into historical women’s roles, gender equality and social history, as well as for her political commitment.
  • The Faculty of Science honored Dr. Jane Goodall in recognition of her pioneering work in the behavioral sciences and primatology. Her research provided important information about wild chimpanzees, and she remains committed to protecting the animals, their habitats and the environment.

Two new honorary senators

The Extended Executive Board of the University appointed Prof. Dr. med. Giorgio Noseda, professor emeritus at the University of Bern, as honorary senator of the University of Zurich. He was instrumental in the founding of various cancer research organizations. His ties to UZH include, among other things, the Foundation National Institute for Cancer Epidemiology and Registration (NICER).
Dr. Peter F. Weibel was also appointed as an honorary member of the Senate for his successful role as president of the board of trustees of the UZH Foundation and in recognition of his services to scientific research.


Dr. Carina Klein (right) receives the UZH teaching award. (picture:UZH)
Dr. Carina Klein (right) receives the UZH teaching award.

Teaching award goes to neuropsychologist
This year, the Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching went to Dr. Carina Klein, teaching and research assistant at the chair of neuropsychology at the Department of Psychology. She won the award for her outstanding teaching and her ability to explain complex matters in simple, understandable and practical terms. Klein shows great commitment in supervising her students, who showed their gratitude for her teaching through their overwhelmingly positive feedback.

Awards for the best PhD theses

This year’s annual faculty awards go to: Johanna Breidenbach (Faculty of Theology), Dr. Claude Humbel (Faculty of Law), Robin Schnider (Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics), Dr. med. Philipp Baumgartner (Faculty of Medicine), Dr. Julia Ettlin (Vetsuisse Faculty), Dr. Jessica Oschwald (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) and Dr. Johanna Wagner-Albrecht (Faculty of Science).

Awards for team effort and alumni

This year's Team Effort award went to the team of the Children’s University of Zurich, which has been organizing lectures and workshops for children in third to fifth grade of primary school for 15 years now. The team’s passion has helped pique schoolchildren’s curiosity and shed light on current research.
Prof. Dr. Andreas Donatsch received the Alumni Award 2020. The former president of the Ius-Alumni organization was recognized for his role in establishing a living and meeting place for exchange students from partner faculties and deepening UZH’s international network.

Link to the videos of the Dies academicus

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Download Pictures

  • Jane Goodall

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    Jane Goodall (Image: Jane Goodall Institut Schweiz)

  • Jane Goodall at an event in November in Baden.

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    Jane Goodall at an event in November in Baden. (Image: Jane Goodall Institut Schweiz)

  • Jane Goodall In conversation with an activist from her environmental initiative "Roots & Shoots".

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    Jane Goodall In conversation with an activist from her environmental initiative "Roots & Shoots". (Image: Jane Goodall Institut Schweiz)