Scientific work versus other occupations: Why did you choose science?
As a child I was fascinated by the smorgasbord of creatures living in the various biotopes around and spent countless hours collecting all types of specimens. When I was a high school student in the mid 70ties I read the book ¨Molekulare Genetik¨ by Rolf Knippers and was particularly intrigued by the chapter on molecular evolution. It became crystal clear to me that this novel approach in evolutionary sciences will substantially advance our understanding of the origin and history of the natural world. It was the beginning of a life-long interest in studies aiming at deciphering the underlying molecular mechanisms that created today’s diversity.
What do you like about your work?
I feel very privileged to have the freedom to follow my research interests in the evolution of insect sex determination and to be a member of an international consortium that seeks to exploit this knowledge to improve existing sexing methods in pest control management. Also, I regard the daily interactions with and teaching of young talented and strongly motivated students as a highly satisfying aspect of my work.
Have you experienced dry periods or failure in your career? How did you overcome them?
Probably like most fellow researchers I experienced failures and periods of low output. From early on in my career I learned that this is an inescapable part of the research process. It is difficult to anticipate the outcome of an adopted direction of studies. Taking a new direction or starting from scratch may be necessary at times. Accepting this fact is the best way to prevent discouragement.
Who has supported you the most in your professional environment? Who privately?
Over the course of my career I had the fortune and privilege to work with a number of mentors who were enormously supportive and offered exciting projects to work on. It would be unfair to name just one. Privately, I would say that my parents deserve the credits of always being very supportive of my career choices.
Did you have role models who influenced your career? Who were they?
Being a geneticist studying evolution my historical role models would have to include Mendel and Darwin. A visit to the locations where they developed their groundbreaking new concepts (Brno and Down south of London) is still on my bucket list. Personally, the educational skills and the deliberate research approaches of my former colleagues Rolf Nöthiger and Andreas Dübendorfer had a strong and lasting impact on me.
How do you ensure your personal work-life balance?
My favourite past time activity is composing and playing music with my band. Like in science it allows me to be creative, albeit in a different way.
What tips would you offer a young researcher who is considering an academic career?
A sincere interest in pending questions in biology and willingness to fully commit to solve these problems are absolute prerequisites for a career in academia. You have to be an idealist with a thirst for knowledge, you don't do it for the money. I also strongly encourage young researchers to seek the opportunity early on in their career to work in research groups abroad. This experience is invaluable not only for professional reasons, it broadens your horizon at many levels.
|Position||Senior Research Associate / Groupleader|
|1984-1987||PhD, University of Basel, Switzerland, in Molecular and Cell Biology|
|1979-1983||M.Sc. University of Basel, Switzerland, in Molecular and Cell Biology|
|since 2011||Group leader at the Department of Molecular Life Sciences, University Zürich, Switzerland|
|2005-2011||Group leader at the Zoological Institute, University Zürich, Switzerland|
|1999-2005||Senior Research Associate at the Zoological Institute, University Zürich, Switzerland|
|1993-1999||Research Associate at the Zoological Institute, University Zürich, Switzerland|
|1988-1993||Visiting research fellow, Princeton University, U.S.A. Genetics and Developmental Biology|
|1987-1988||Research assistant, Biocenter, University of Basel, Switzerland|