Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize - a great recognition and motivator

Portraits of seven laureates of the Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize

Since 2009, the SNSF has awarded the Marie Heim Vögtlin Prize to outstanding young women researchers. On the occasion of Women's Day on 8 March, past laureates reflect on the prize and what it has meant to them.

The first Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize went to Viviane Hess. "I felt I was being carried by all the women before and after me," remembers the cancer researcher of the University Hospital of Basel. Now a professor of oncology, she is continuing her work towards optimising the treatment of patients with gastrointestinal tumours.

Successful careers

All the past laureates emphasise that the prize was a great recognition and motivator. Since winning it, they have successfully pursued their research careers both in Switzerland and abroad.

Palaeoclimatologist Anna Nele Meckler (prize winner 2015) today works at the University of Bergen (Norway); in December 2020 she was awarded one of the highly coveted research grants of the European Research Council - it is already her second ERC grant! Looking back, she says the prize boosted both her confidence and her career prospects during the critical postdoctoral phase. Mathilde Bouvel (2017) also felt invigorated by the prize: "The Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize was a turning point because it accelerated my integration at the Institute of Mathematics of the University of Zurich."

Luzia Malär (2013) emphasises that the prize increased her visibility at the university and in the research community. She is a specialist in digital brand management and teaches at the University of Bern. And it galvanised biologist Armelle Corpet (2015), a researcher and teacher at the University Claude Bernard in Lyon, to play an active role promoting women in science. This led to her participation in "La Science Taille XX Elles", a picture campaign by Femmes&Sciences that has been running since 2018.

With the prize, the researchers receive 25,000 francs in prize money. Jurist Charlotte Blattner (2020), who has recently returned to Switzerland after studying in North America, wants to use the money to organise moot courts and a writing competition for students. Claire Jacob (2012) used the money to bridge research funding gaps. After successfully establishing her own research group at the University of Fribourg, she is now working in Mainz, where she gained a professorship in neurobiology in 2018.

Creating equal opportunities

Much has changed since Marie Heim-Vögtlin graduated from the University of Zurich as Switzerland's first female physician in 1874. But gender equality is still some way off, the laureates agree. They are all hoping for more change so that women pursuing an academic career can benefit from the same opportunities as their male colleagues.

The SNSF will award the next Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize in 2021. The winner's name will be announced in autumn.