Inaugural Lecture - Prof. Martin Ackermann


Event details

Date 07.02.2023 17:1518:00  
Speaker Prof. Martin Ackermann
Location Online
Category Inaugural lectures - Honorary Lecture
Event Language English
Date: 7 February 2023
Time: 17:15 - 18:00
Introduction by the Dean, lecture by Prof. Martin Ackermann. Followed by an Apero.
Place: ELA 1
Zoom link

From trying to understand how nature works to impact-oriented environmental research (with a detour via the pandemic)

In this inaugural lecture, I will briefly describe how my focus shifted from fundamental biological questions to impact-oriented environmental research. I started my academic career as a biologist, leading a research group that aims to discover principles of how bacteria interact with each other and with their environment. Using a few examples, I will discuss our motivation to use a bottom-up approach to microbial ecosystems and describe some of the discoveries that we made. With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I suspended most my research activities and worked as a science advisor to the Swiss government. I will summarize what I learned about the science-policy dialogue and describe how these learnings motivated me to apply for the position of the director of Eawag, the aquatic research institute of the ETH domain. I will conclude my presentation by describing what I see as the main opportunities for Eawag – and the main challenges, and how we overcome these challenges together.

About the speaker
Martin Ackermann studied biology at the University of Basel, where he received his PhD in 2002. He then worked for two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in San Diego. In 2004, he joined ETH Zurich as a senior scientist. He was appointed by the ETH board as assistant professor SNSF in 2006, associate professor in 2008 and full professor for microbial systems ecology in 2015. In addition to his professorship at ETH Zurich, Martin Ackermann spent ten years heading a research department with around 50 researchers at Eawag, overseeing  solution-oriented research in environmental microbiology. Martin Ackermann was Vice-President from April to July 2020 and President from August 2020 to August 2021 of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force. In January 2023, Martin Ackermann took on the position as the Director of Eawag. He mainly focuses on this new role, and in parallel continues working with his research group as a co-leader.

Practical information

  • Informed public
  • Registration required


  • SSIE - Christina Treier

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