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190 Years of the University of Zurich: Honorary Doctorates for Six Women and One Man

No fewer than six women will receive honorary doctorates at the Dies academicus of the University of Zurich on Saturday. They are anthropologist Birgit Meyer, courtroom sketch artist Linda Graedel, computer scientist Tova Milo, medical ethicist Christine Mitchell, veterinarian Monique Eloit and activist Maude Barlow, with the seventh honor going to the (male) opera singer Christian Gerhaher.


The ceremony will be held on site at Irchel Campus once again, but some aspects from the years when it could be held only virtually have been retained: video portraits will present exceptional personalities from the world of academia and wider society, and for all those who cannot attend in person, the complete event will be filmed and made available later online. Barbara Bleisch will conduct the proceedings, including a keynote address by Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr, who is “looking forward to congratulating the largest comprehensive university in our country on its 190th anniversary and to sharing my reflections on apparent certitudes and political convictions with the Dies guests.”

“A successful 190 years of providing excellent education and conducting first-rate research is a true cause for celebration. The University of Zurich stands for the pursuit of knowledge, joined-up thinking and innovative potential – in national and international contexts,” says UZH President Michael Schaepman. “We will continue to develop and build on our accomplishments.”

Manifold stories of success in 2022

Due to the positive reception of the videos recorded for the last three Dies ceremonies, it was decided that a film would complement the ceremony this year too. The short movie will show highlights from 2022, accompanied by live music from the Academic Orchestra Zurich. For example, we see the university being designated an Age-Friendly University and joining the Blue Community which recognizes water as a human right.

The movie also recalls highlights from research and teaching, including particle physicist Nicola Serra and his team chasing a phantom at CERN, historians Monika Dommann and Marietta Meier investigating structural causes of abuse in the Catholic Church, and immunologist Onur Boyman exploring how memory T cells can prevent severe disease progression. The interdisciplinary and international cooperation that plays a central role in many areas of academic life is also reflected in the video – such as a project examining the impact of stress on physical health, a simulated WHO hearing for law students to practice their skills, or UZH’s membership of the European higher education alliance Una Europa.

Honorary doctorates for six women and one man

On the occasion of the Dies academicus, the faculties of the University of Zurich choose to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions through their research or life’s work. This year, the title of honorary doctor has been conferred on seven people:

  • The Faculty of Theology honors the anthropologist Prof. Dr. Birgit Meyer of Utrecht University for her research into African Pentecostalism. Her efforts have contributed to an understanding of medial, visual and material forms of religious expression and of religion as cultural heritage.
  • Courtroom sketch artist Linda Graedel has documented hundreds of court cases, from the history-making to the routine. Her sketches, often seen in the Swiss media, give an unflinching and yet sensitive view of the court proceedings and the characters involved, writes the Faculty of Law.
  • The Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics has chosen Prof. Dr. Tova Milo of Tel Aviv University for her work bridging database systems and theory. She also actively champions the rights and promotes the visibility of women in computer science
  • Christine Mitchell of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School is honored by the Faculty of Medicine for her pioneering work in the field of medical ethics. She is strongly committed to improving equal opportunities and inclusion, and combating discrimination.
  • Dr. Monique Eloit, director of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), is honored by the Vetsuisse Faculty for her engagement in the field of health management in veterinary medicine. She carries out important work in the prevention and control of epizootic diseases and zoonoses.
  • The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has chosen medic and opera singer Prof. Dr. Christian Gerhaher for his services to music and the art of singing. His performances combine scientific precision and intellectual and linguistic reflection.
  • Maude Barlow, author, activist and co-founder of the global Blue Community movement, is honored by the Faculty of Science in recognition of her tireless commitment to making water a human right and ensuring that water resources are used sustainably.

Teaching Award for best exam preparation

The UZH Teaching Award is granted to Prof. Dr. Caroline Maake of the Institute of Anatomy. As well as her clear teaching style, students appreciate the professor’s well-structured documentation, the practical relevance of her classes, and her excellent exam preparation. She also presents anatomical dissections to break up blocks of theory and conveys complex topics in an understandable and entertaining way, say her students.

Team Effort Award for Irchel Park clean-up

The 2023 Team Effort Award goes to a mixed team of scientists and technical staff for their anti-littering initiative at Irchel Park. The team investigated the use and management of the park and initiated a plan to reduce the waste problem and improve the quality of the recreational areas around Irchel Campus.

Awards for best doctoral theses

This year’s award winners are: Dr. Sophie Tätweiler (Faculty of Theology), Dr. Reto Walther (Faculty of Law), Dr. Ursina Schaede (Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics), Dr. med. Dr. sc. med. Kevin Sven Akeret (Faculty of Medicine), Dr. Erin Beebe (Vetsuisse Faculty), Dr. Molly Fitzpatrick (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) and Dr. Pascale Zwicky (Faculty of Science).

Science awards and research fellowships

The Walter and Gertrud Siegenthaler Foundation of the University of Zurich presents its Science Award 2023 to Prof. Dr. med. Viktor Kölzer in recognition of his scientific and clinical activities at the Institute of Pathology and Molecular Pathology at the UniversityHospital Zurich.
The foundation’s 2023 research fellowship goes to attending physician Dr. med. Florentia Dimitriou of the Department of Dermatology at the UniversityHospital Zurich.

Walter Frei Award

The Vetsuisse Faculty grants the Walter Frei Award to Prof. Dr. Frank Møller Aarestrup for his scientific contribution to international standards for the detection and monitoring of antibiotic resistance and the use of antimicrobial agents.

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Dies academicus 2023


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