Death of Heidi Diggelmann, former president of the SNSF's National Research Council

© © Mario Del Curto

We mourn the death of Heidi Diggelmann, president of the SNSF's National Research Council from 1997 to 2004. A great researcher herself, she was particularly dedicated to promoting interdisciplinary work and the position of women.

Born in 1936, Professor Diggelmann initially trained as a doctor. From 1971 to 1991, she was head of division at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) and subsequently, from 1991 to 2001, headed the Microbiology Institute of Lausanne University. A researcher of international repute, she was also closely involved in issues around research policy. In particular, she sat on the ETH Board from 1990 to 1996 and was a member of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences.

From 1997 to 2004, Diggelmann was the first – and, to date, the only – woman presiding the National Research Council of the SNSF. In an interview looking back at her presidency, she told Horizons magazine how proud she was to have seen the autonomy of young researchers strengthened and greater account taken of women's interests in research. She also recalled the challenges: “Researchers must be able to pursue unconventional and creative careers, cultivating interdisciplinary aspects, for example, or engaging more in work that involves the public.”

Against the background of budget constraints, she considered that an institution like the SNSF “must be able to assume risks and confront criticism in the event of a flop. Otherwise we will only go with what is safe and miss out on the truly innovative areas and those that have yet to be explored”.

The SNSF will greatly miss its former President and conveys its condolences to her friends and family.