Professor Béatrice Beck-Schimmer, member of the Research Council and of the Specialised Committee Careers of the SNSF, opened the award ceremony for the Marie Heim-Vögtlin (MHV) Prize on 23 September 2015 by remembering the amazing career of the doctor after whom the funding scheme is named. In 1868, Marie Heim-Vögtlin, with the permission of her father, became the first Swiss woman to be accepted as a student at the University of Zurich. After obtaining her degree, she began to practise medicine as a gynaecologist and continued to do so even after the birth of her two children.
Professor Brigitte Galliot, member of the Marie Heim-Vögtlin evaluation committee and herself a former MHV grantee, awarded the Prize to Dr Armelle Corpet after praising her as "an excellent scientist, incredibly productive despite four children as evidenced by her list of publications (I found 14 today on Pubmed) and a patent! […] She is certainly one of the most talented MHV grantees I have had the chance to meet and follow over the past years. Her field of research, the regulation of genome stability and senescence, are of fundamental importance in biology, with the utmost biomedical implications." In her acceptance speech, Dr Corpet stressed the importance of the MHV grant for her academic career: "After an interruption of nine months following the birth of my third child, obtaining the MHV grant enabled me to continue my academic career as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zurich. Besides paying my salary, the main benefits of the grant were to finance part of my laboratory work, my participation in international conferences and a contribution towards childcare costs. This has given me the freedom to work more independently in the lab."
Dr Angelika Kalt, vice director of the SNSF and herself a former geology professor, introduced Dr Anna Nele Meckler with the following words: "Anna Meckler’s career is a model case of what the MHV scheme can do. She had her first child in 2010 right after her Caltech postdoc which slowed down the publication of her results. The second child came in May 2012. This is often a serious handicap for a career as employers doubt that mothers of young children can dedicate the expected 200% of their time to research and this is precisely where MHV steps in to bridge this difficult period." In her speech, Dr Meckler came back to the theme of finding a balance between maternity and research: "The MHV grant shows that it is possible to be a woman researcher and have children, and it valorises this choice. […]. But having children forces you to be very efficient at work. Some work also has to be done in the evening or on weekends. […] The MHV grant as well as my mentor allowed me to work and to get organised completely independently anyway".
Today, Dr Armelle Corpet is Maître de conférences at the University of Lyon, where she lives with her family. Dr Nele Meckler is continuing her work on reconstructing the climate in periods with high greenhouse gas concentrations at the University of Bergen in Norway, where her husband is also a professor and where they live with their children.
Press release 04.06.2015
From left to right: Prof. B. Galliot, Dr A. Corpet, Prof. Beck-Schimmer, Dr A. N. Meckler, Dr A. Kalt