Honorary Doctorates for Four Women and Three Men

As the University of Zurich celebrates its 191st anniversary this weekend, honorary doctorates are awarded to legal scholar Michal Gal, behavioral economist Iris Bohnet, veterinarian Polly Taylor, particle physicist Beate Heinemann, historian Oded Lipschits, economist Douglas Bernheim and sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson.

On Saturday, UZH celebrates its 191st anniversary, inviting numerous outstanding personalities from academia, politics and culture to join in the festivities on Irchel Campus hosted by philosopher Barbara Bleisch. Besides UZH President Michael Schaepman, the illustrious guest list includes Daniel Jositsch, member of the Swiss Council of States and professor of criminal law, who will talk about the interdependence of politics and science, as well as members of the Association of Junior Researchers of the University of Zurich (VAUZ). In addition, Deputy President Gabriele Siegert will highlight the complex and emerging challenges of teaching at UZH.

In his address, UZH President Michael Schaepman will look back at some of the highlights and challenges of the outgoing academic year, such as the reform of the Academic Senate as well as the excellent international cooperation, including UZH’s involvement in the League of European Research Universities (LERU), the Una Europa alliance and numerous other academic institutions. Highlights closer to home include UZH’s commitment to the Digitalization Initiative of the Zurich Higher Education Institutions manifested in the appointment of six new professors who will work on key digital topics.

Schaepman’s review of 2023 also focuses on research that had a strong societal impact, such as the panel event on the topic of the leaky pipeline, during which structural mechanisms shaping the academic careers of women and gender-specific career paths were discussed from different perspectives. Another hotly debated topic in 2023 was the UZH-led study on sexual abuse in the Swiss Catholic Church, which made headlines both within and outside Switzerland.

This year, the faculties of the University of Zurich award their honorary doctorates to four women and four men in recognition of their outstanding contributions through their research or life’s work:
  • The Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religions honors Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University. The historian and architect is recognized for his work in building bridges between disciplines, providing Bible research and theology with important impulses.
  • The Faculty of Law awards the title to Prof. Michal Gal , who identifies threats to economic freedom in an increasingly digitalized world, as well as the relevant solutions, honoring the University of Haifa legal scholar for her contributions in growing and strengthening international competition law.
  • The Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics honors Douglas Bernheim of Stanford University for his varied research work, in particular in the fields of game theory and behavioral economics.
  • The Faculty of Medicine presents its honorary doctorate to Iris Bohnet , behavioral economist and co-director at Harvard Kennedy School, for her work in promoting gender equality in science and leadership positions.
  • The Vetsuisse Faculty honors veterinarian Dr. Polly Taylor for her outstanding contributions in veterinary anesthesia and pain research as well as animal welfare.
  • The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences awards an honorary doctorate to science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson for his unparalleled ability to combine scientific expertise, speculative thinking and poetic rigor.
  • The Faculty of Science honors physicist Beate Heinemann of the University of Hamburg and the DESY research center for her pioneering role in exploring new phenomena and planning particle accelerators.


This year’s teaching award goes to Marc Thommen , professor of criminal law and criminal procedure law. His students at the Faculty of Law particularly appreciate the stimulating, conducive learning environment that gets students to ask questions, engage in discussion and challenge ideas. Marc Thommen plans his lectures with great commitment and a pinch of humor. He includes real-life cases, digital tools as well as interactive elements that encourage students to attend his lecture on site rather than follow the course via live stream or podcast.

The Air Miles Group at the Department of Geography wins the 2024 Team Effort Award for their trailblazing efforts in reducing air travel emissions at UZH. The varied team has been monitoring air travel by UZH employees and invited guests since 2017, using these data as a basis for developing strategies and targets to curb the number of flights. They also built up advisory services for department members.

This year’s annual faculty awards go to: Dr. Nina Beerli (Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion), Dr. Pascal Felix Meier (Faculty of Law), Daniel Gehrig (Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics), Dr. Lucia Žinka (Faculty of Medicine), Dr. Kira Dassler (Vetsuisse Faculty) and Dr. Simon Jantschgi (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences).

Further prizes

Science awards
The Walter and Gertrud Siegenthaler Foundation bestows two Science Awards this year: to Dr. med. Dr. sc. med. Kevin Akeret in recognition of his achievements at University Hospital Zurich in the field of neurosurgery, and to Dr. med. Flurin Cathomas for his invaluable work as attending physician at University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich.

Research grants
The Walter and Gertrud Siegenthaler Foundation’s 2024 research grant goes to PD Dr. med. Julia Velz, attending physician at University Hospital Zurich, for a two-year research stay abroad. Another grant for a two-year research stay is awarded to Dr. med. Adrian-Minh Schumacher, resident physician at University Hospital Zurich.