Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends of UZH
It is my pleasure to present the 2015 Annual Report of the University of Zurich. The report’s photo gallery invites you to explore the the various puzzles and manifestations of life – the focus of our publication. We have asked 15 researchers at UZH to answer life’s big questions from the perspective of their field. Their answers are naturally well-informed – and surprising.
We have also summarized the past year’s highlights from research and education. For instance, the findings on a cancer antibody – an example that underlines the importance of UZH as a research university. The same is valid in an entirely different discipline: The project to develop an online reference work on regional grammatical variation of standard German. In the area of education, a major project focuses on simplifying the structures of the University’s study programs. The role of Bachelor’s degree programs as the source of a broad, basic scholarly education is to be strengthened, while Master’s degree programs will focus on specialization.
Finally, a major highlight of 2015 concerns infrastructure: The Canton of Zurich granted the University the right to act independently in matters related to new building projects. We have rounded off our report with the latest statistics and financial information. Last year, some 25,400 students came to the University’s lecture halls and labs to explore the world of scholarship and science. In doing so, they provided an answer to the question of what life means for a university.
Prof. Dr. Michael O. Hengartner, President
The Intricate Web of Banking
Interconnectedness in the banking sector increases the risk of financial crises. Financial market specialist Stefano Battiston conducts detailed analyses of the banking network to develop a basis for an early warning system.
Closing the Gap
UZH has grand construction designs for the coming decades. The long term strategy is underway and key projects have already been realized at various sites.
Bologna Reform The University of Zurich is redesign-ing its study programs: By 2020, Bachelor’s degree programs will be dedicated to a broad academic edu cation, while specialization will be reserved for the Master’s level.
A ventricle that looks like a Japanese octopus trap, and symptoms resembling a coronary: UZH's cardiologists are researching the mysterious and dangerous “broken heart syndrome.”
Antibodies against Cancer
A biotech firm is developing a new cancer antibody that also improves the patient’s sense of well-being – innovations that are based on the research of UZH dermatologist Thomas Kündig.
Dialectics on Dialect
The Swiss are proud of their dialects – and have their reservations about high German. This is set to change thanks to linguist Christa Dürscheid's thought provoking work on regional variation in the grammar of standard German.
After a short, four-year building phase, the new Balgrist Campus was officially opened. The new center for musculoskeletal research and development unites diverse research groups thanks to the transparent building that largely does without dividing walls.
UZH in Figures
Students by Faculty
Students by Academic Level
Enrollment since 1970
Mobility Students (incomings and outgoings) by Faculty
New Students by Faculty
Student to Instructor Ratio
Teaching Staff / Faculty
Staff 2010 - 2015
Income 2015 (in CHF millions)
Expenditure 2015 (in CHF millions)
Researchers in Focus
UZH researchers answer life’s big questions. Photos by Marc Latzel
What Is Life?
A literature expert and an astrophysicist, a veterinarian and a theologian: The fifteen UZH researchers portrayed in the 2015 annual report generate knowledge. And they deal in very different ways with the mysteries of life. Their surprising answers to life's big questions are presented in our report.
Is There Life in Outer Space?
I hope so! In our galaxy, we estimate there are 10 billion earth-like planets that revolve around stars similar to our sun. That’s why I would find it surprising if life existed only in our solar system. Many of these other worlds might be empty and deserted, others might only host microbial life. But there may also be civilizations out there that are more advanced than our own world.
Professor of Theoretical Physics
Does Literature Change Our Lives?
Reading literature is much like seeing ghosts: We hear the voices of unknown narrators. Scenes we have never experienced ourselves appear before our inner eye. We live alongside fictional characters. And so, reading also schools our imaginations: We open ourselves to an “as though.” I make my own experiences by participating in the life of others as a reader.
Professor of English and American Literature
How Much Does a Human Life Cost?
In Germany, roughly 1.65 million euros (as of 2005), for men a little more, for women a little less. But putting aside my love for economics: Everyone has to decide for themselves what their own life is worth.
Professor of Financial Engineering
Why Are There So Many Forms of Life?
Over the course of evolution, organisms continually specialize and adapt to new ecological niches. In doing so, the tap into yet unexploited resources, which leads to increasing diversification and, finally, to the creation of new species. That explains why there are more species today than ever before in Earth’s history.
Professor of Plant Development Genetics
When Does an Animal Have a Good Life?
When it can develop naturally and can lead a life free from abuse. And when an animal’s dignity is respected in all situations.
Brigitte von Rechenberg
Professor of Experimental Surgery and Dean of the Vetsuisse Faculty
Are Humans Living Longer?
Medical care for the sole purpose of prolonging life is not worth striving for. The goal of modern medical research in geriatrics is to enable people to live the longest, healthiest life possible. They should remain physically and mentally fit. Scholarship in this field helps to delay physiological aging at all organ levels.
Professor of Geriatrics and Research on Aging
When Does Life Begin?
From a medical point of view, life begins when a sperm cell and an ovum merge. Today, life can begin in an artificial environment. As such, legal and ethics scholars are called on to monitor the developments and to prevent abuse.
Professor of Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Law, and Medical Law
What Is Life?
In its most basic form, life is self-organization, growth, irritability, reproduction, and the ability to develop. For humans, life is experiencing and narrating. One way or another, life is a mystery.
Professor of Political Philosophy
Is Our Life Arbitrary?
Yes and no. A human animal that can philosophize in annual reports – that is not a preconceived condition of life. There are, however, regular patterns. Our legs aren’t the same length by accident: Asymmetrical walking would be inefficient. But why only kangaroos developed their fast and energy-efficient hops...probably we humans were just unlucky.
Professor of Evolutionary Ecology
Should We Create Life?
As humans, we have an inherent will to create. And we have achieved an impressive number of masterpieces: We can design, manipulate, preserve, and clone life. But for all that, we should never forget we are the result of evolution. As such: Beware of all-too human hubris!
Professor of Biomedical Ethics
What Threatens Our Life?
The constant microbial threats to our bodies mean that a functioning immune system is essential to our health. We can’t afford malfunctions. That as why we at UZH have set the goal of studying immune defects in order to develop innovative, targeted therapies for people with these disorders.
Professor of Pediatric Immunology
Will We Live as Cyborgs in the Future?
Strictly speaking, we already do. In how we communicate today, how we read and write, seek and find, see and think – we have already merged with machines. What bioelectronics will contribute to the trend remains to be seen. Either way, it will be interesting to hear what Cyborgs tell of their beginnings.
SNSF Assistant Professor at the Department of German Studies
What Makes Life Good?
A combination of external and internal factors. The “messenger” (daímon) should be well-disposed toward us – in health, in career, in partnerships and friendships. Fulfillment is achieved when we move past our own limitations, at best in the service of the community, or in thinking about the fragile foundations of human existence. Not for nothing did Aristotles believe that contemplation (theoría) is the key to a truly happy life.
Professor of Classical Philology and Greek Studies
How Did Life Begin?
Whether it was chance, creation, or the primordial soup – fact is, life is incredibly complex. And we live all the same. How dead materials ever generated something living remains a fascinating mystery of science. In the lab, we can create and modify building blocks of life, but we can’t create life. Today, we can only form life from existing life – because life is more than the sum of its parts.
SNSF Assistant Professor at the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences
Is There Life After Death?
Many religions have conceptions of a life in the afterworld. Despite the mythic undertones, the thought behind these fascinating thoughts is that an individual human life is not all that counts, and that death doesn’t have the final word on a human being’s life. In Judaism and Christianity, however, the exploration of our own mortality is rightfully more pronounced than speculation on immortality or forms of life after death.
Professor of Old Testament Studies and Early Jewish Religious History