Campus Stories

UZH Working Environments

How do you learn to stand on your own two feet early in an academic career? How do you lead a team in tandem? How do you combine learning and teaching? What happens when tasks change? The future of work is upon us and is changing our daily lives. Find out how UZH staff are helping to shape the change.

“She pushes me and gives me freedom”

A supportive supervisor, a UZH Postdoc Grant, plenty of contact with other scientists and a pretty special place to work: postdoctoral researcher Hanna Marti values her working environment and the good conditions for a career in academia.

“I love working here at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Although I’ve specialized in microbiology, I’m a trained vet, and my true passion is animals, so it’s great that there’s a meadow right next to my office with horses and sheep grazing and an overzealous rooster crowing.

I’m working and doing research at the Institute of Veterinary Pathology. Our research group comprises around 40 members of staff. Specifically, I’m looking at how antibiotic resistance is transferred from one group of bacteria to another. My model organism is the bacterium Chlamydia suis, which can cause conjunctivitis and diarrhea in pigs.

I can use 80% of my full-time workload, which is funded by a UZH Postdoc Grant for a year, for my own biomedical research.  The rest of the time I mainly carry out diagnostic work as our research group is the national and international reference laboratory for chlamydia abortus in sheep and goats. We recently did the preparatory work so that an infection can be detected using a PCR method throughout Switzerland.

“Although I’ve specialized in microbiology, I’m a trained vet, and my true passion is animals, so it’s great that they’re right next door to my office at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.”

Hanna Marti

Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Veterinary Pathology

My day-to-day work heavily depends on the phase of my research project. If I’m conducting experiments, you’ll find me in the lab at 5.30am.  Whereas if I’m writing an article for a scientific publication or applications for research funding, I have a very different routine. I like to write in the evening – and I usually do that at home.  I really appreciate the fact that UZH allows me this flexibility and has embraced mobile working.

The different tasks and the many contacts mean my work is extremely varied. In my diagnostic work, I regularly deal with the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office and the World Organisation for Animal Health. As part of international research projects at our Institute, I work with researchers from Germany and Canada. Their expertise helps me with my own research.

Obviously, international cooperation is important to an academic career, but UZH also provides an enormous wealth of knowledge. For my own research, I regularly use the services of the UZH research platforms, such as the Center for Microscopy and Image Analysis, the Zurich Functional Genomics Center, and the Cytometry Facility.
I actually think that here at UZH, we could network and take advantage of each other’s expertise a lot more. I made an initial attempt to get something like this going by setting up the platform “Equipment at Vetsuisse” on Microsoft Teams. The platform allows staff at the Vetsuisse Faculty to offer equipment for shared use or to exchange leftover reagents from experiments. Ultimately, in this way we can also play a part in sustainability.

My next career goal is habilitation, which I hope I can achieve by 2024.  I realized very early on that I wanted to pursue a scientific career. This is thanks in no small part to my supervisor Nicole Borel, whom I’ve been working with since 2011 and who supervised my PhD. She always challenges me to think about my career and to set short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. Nicole pushes me when I lose motivation and gives me freedom when I need it – in my day-to-day research and in the lab. And she’s always by my side if I need support. I find that incredibly reassuring.

Conversely, I also enjoy passing on my experience as a young researcher to students and PhD candidates and doing what I can to help them overcome their obstacles. Together with Enni Markkanen, I am responsible for two mentoring programs at our faculty, and I also represent junior researchers at the Vetsuisse Faculty Assembly.
I think that on the whole, UZH offers a huge amount of support opportunities. The easy access to scientific literature alone is very valuable. Those who have done research at other universities, like I have, will know that that’s not always a given. And the Postdoc Grant, from which I’m currently benefiting, closes an important gap in academic career development.”


Hanna Marti is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Veterinary Pathology. She is studying how antibiotic resistance can be transferred from one group of bacteria to another. Her model organism is a bacterium that occurs in pigs.

“You have to be open to new things”

Susanne Luchsinger has been working as a liaison librarian since the establishment of the new University Library. In tandem with her colleague from the Zentralbibliothek Zürich, she is in charge of the philosophy section. She likes the fact that they are free to organize how they work together, and this also benefits the library’s services.

“My working environment has changed quite a lot recently. Since the beginning of 2022, I’ve been working as a liaison librarian at the new University Library (UB). Before the UZH libraries merged into the UL, I managed the library at the Institute of Philosophy.

As the reorganization has brought us closer to the Zentralbibliothek (ZB), I work in tandem with Andrea Sommaruga from the ZB. Together we look after the philosophy section, Andrea at the ZB and me at the UB.

“I’ve had loads of unexpected tasks to deal with this year.”

Susanne Luchsinger

Liaison librarian at the University Library

As liaison librarians, we have to be lots of things: researchers, consultants and teachers, all rolled into one. In other words, we’re responsible for selecting the medium, making the content of the media accessible, and looking after the library’s holdings on philosophy. We help students, researchers and teaching staff with literature research and reference management, scientific publication (open access), and we offer courses and run tours of the library.

I was already involved in projects with Andrea Sommaruga before the reorganization. Now, as a liaison librarian tandem, we work together even more closely, which benefits us both. For example, we are developing criteria to guide the acquisition of new literature. Andrea has introduced me to new sources. When we put our heads together, we come up with new ideas. We take inspiration from each other about how we can expand and optimize our service offering. In the last Fall Semester, we set up the Coffee Lectures Program, which introduces users to topics like swisscovery, open access and information management. I think we complement each other really well! For example, Andrea offers research courses at the ZB so she is more familiar with the specific questions of students, while she benefits from the fact that I am closer to researchers and teaching staff at the University.

Andrea and I regularly communicate on Microsoft Teams or by e-mail, and she works in my office every Tuesday morning. All the liaison librarian tandems at the UB and ZB are free to organize how they work, like we do. I like this form of organization. It allows us to better cater to the individual needs of researchers and teaching staff from the Institute of Philosophy. If we receive specific requests, we decide how best to deal with them. We can organize our work as we see fit. We also regularly interact with colleagues from other subject areas, which is rewarding. As one of the coordinators for all liaison librarians in the field of history, culture and theology at the University Library (UBB 1), I take our concerns to the head of department.

I also deputize for the head of UBB 1, Susanna Blaser-Meier. In this role, I carry out various tasks, including conceptual work. Besides the liaison librarians, the UBB 1 also comprises media and user services. As we have only been working in this way since the beginning of the year, there are lots of interfaces to coordinate and workflows to define. To this end, I devised a communication concept for UBB1 which was subsequently approved by the management team. It covered topics such as whether to launch a newsletter, how to organize our Microsoft Teams structure and general data storage, who should have access to what data, and much more. The continuing education courses run by Central IT on One Note and Microsoft 365 were really helpful for this.

I find the multifaceted nature of my work really exciting. What do I see as my core competency? I think that in my newly-created role, you basically have to be open to new things and be able to get on with the job. A lot of unexpected tasks have landed on my desk this year, which I’ve had to deal with on an ad hoc basis. I’m currently in the process of putting together an induction program for a colleague who will soon start working as a liaison librarian. I’ll be supporting him as a co-mentor. Another highlight was organizing a second-hand book market for UZH members. It was great to see so many colleagues from my department getting involved – ultimately it was also a team event.”


Susanne Luchsinger is a liaison librarian at the new University Library. In tandem with her colleague from the Zentralbibliothek Zürich, she is in charge of the philosophy section.

“We need flexible infrastructure”

Biologist Bernd Bodenmiller works with his team in the new UZI 5 building on Irchel Campus. He appreciates the modern infrastructure which affords him a great deal of flexibility for his interdisciplinary lab research.

“The scientific focus of my research group is precision oncology. Our aim is to determine how best to treat every single cancer patient. We develop methods that allow us to measure tumor tissue spatially and at the single-cell level. Using these methods we then analyze patient cohorts and clinical trials and use algorithms to learn how to better personalize treatment.

As our research program connects the dots between method development and clinical application, our work is extremely diverse, both methodologically and thematically. Interdisciplinary collaboration is part of everyday work in my team, which brings together biologists, biotechnologists, biomedical scientists and bioinformaticians. Each member of the team is working on their own research project, but to be able to realize it from beginning to end, they also need the expertise of their colleagues. For example, a biologist starts working on a research experiment with a clinician, but then discusses the samples and experiments with a statistician, and seeks advice on analyzing the data from a bioinformatician.

These different project definitions, methods, disciplines and cooperation constellations not only call for a great deal of flexibility from my team, they also require flexible infrastructure. And that is exactly what our space here at UZI 5 offers. I’m thrilled with the new building – it’s worlds apart from our old working environment. Our work sometimes used to be spatially fragmented; now, processes and interaction are much more straightforward. It’s also easier to reconfigure the space according to requirements.

“Our old and new working environments are worlds apart. Our work sometimes used to be spatially fragmented; now, processes and interaction are much more straightforward.”

Bernd Bodenmiller

Director of the Department of Quantitative Biomedicine

We were heavily involved in the planning of our new space. From the outset it was clear that in future we would be working in an open space setup with desk sharing. We have implemented this concept pragmatically and in line with individual needs. Now we have around 20 people working at a set workstation and around 10 people who share a workstation with colleagues – for this we have a space with workstations that offer flexibility of use. At first, the open space office was an adjustment as you have to follow certain rules if you don’t want to disturb others. But now it works really well and my team is positive about the new use strategy.

UZI 5 has also given us a huge opportunity to save resources: on our floor, we share laboratory space and general areas such as the chemical storage room with two other research groups where possible. Talking of sustainability, because many conferences – throughout Switzerland and internationally – are organized as hybrid events, we can connect on Zoom or Teams. We also travel by train where possible. I personally find it a relief that I can now give many of my presentations online and therefore don’t have to travel as much. We also use these new video conferencing tools to talk to each other in the lab or to USZ or ETH research groups. To be able to communicate and work together online, we use Mattermost and Teams. What I really like is that you can pool all the documents and discussions on a specific topic and so we don’t send as many e-mails within the group as we used to.

I try to break my work down into fixed blocks and to spread it over the week. This way, I also have some quiet time to prepare lectures, work on publications or write grant applications. Mondays are reserved for meetings with the executive committees of the consortia we’re involved in – such as the Tumor Profiler Center and the Swiss Personalized Health Network. I block out at least two days a week for meetings with my researchers. If someone wants to meet me, they can add an appointment to my calendar. This structure is necessary in a larger team so that all projects get equal support and attention.

What’s my management philosophy? I’d have to answer that question in view of my job, which is to train students and junior researchers and to conduct excellent research. My role involves developing a vision and goals for my research group, supporting projects, promoting innovations and securing the necessary funding to make them happen. Teaching and coaching are equally important: my aim is to enable and empower all my team members to be able to work as independently as possible and to work collaboratively, as this will be the basis of their future work. If things don’t go to plan for PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers, it’s important that I’m here to highlight new approaches, motivate them or tell them to slow down if they rush into something.

I don’t micromanage;  basically I like to delegate responsibility. For example, our lab manager is best placed to know whether we need to procure a new piece of equipment. On retreats with the whole research group, we discuss topics that are relevant to the group and jointly decide how to organize ourselves. After the pandemic in particular, it was important for us to define how we work together in the lab, how we structure meetings and what social events we wanted to organize.

I think it’s good that UZH has introduced a flexible working model. It gives people greater scope to be happy and productive at work. Some people would rather work on a publication or doctoral thesis at home, while others need the office environment. Everyone works differently, and has different needs. The same applies to work-life balance. I’m seeing that my team members have different strategies: some pursue time-consuming hobbies, which allow them to return to their research with renewed vigor. Others have one main focus in life – their scientific career. It’s important to me that I help my team members figure out how they work best, and then encourage them.”


Bernd Bodenmiller is professor of quantitative medicine. His research group is developing methods to comprehensively analyze tissue at the single-cell level in order to better understand human diseases, particularly cancer.

“I love planning”

Bachelor’s student Mira Dhiraj Peiler is gaining valuable initial work experience: as a student employee she looks after mobility students and runs tutorials in the English Department. In order to balance study and work, she has to carefully plan her day-to-day life.

“My role as a student employee at the Global Student Experience department is my first regular job. Two days a week, I guide UZH students who want to study at a university abroad. I answer their questions on exchange programs by e-mail and advise them at the counter directly. I also take care of grant payments, publish partner university programs on the website and carry out background research on potential partner universities.

“In my job as a student employee, I’m discovering another side of university life.”

Mira Dhiraj Peiler

Bachelor’s student

I really like the international dimension and the administrative tasks in my job, and I also get to discover another side of university life. I really like that I can organize my work myself and decide what to do when – that gives me a lot of flexibility. My favorite task is helping students check applications for internship grants abroad. In a way their applications mirror my own student career. I’ve realized that there are some cool things you can do that are supported by UZH.

I’m also learning an incredible amount about communication – for example when advising students, writing e-mails to partner universities and in dealings with my team. We work together very closely. The atmosphere is really open so I’ve felt comfortable from day one.

Once a week, I give a tutorial at the English Department for the compulsory module “Language Skills and Culture”. I teach new students about the basics of academic writing. I really enjoy it and love finding out what motivates students to study English. Besides the fact that running the tutorial helps me consolidate the subject matter for myself, teaching is also a valuable experience. I first had to figure out how to fill 90 minutes and how to get students’ attention at 8am.

Do I think an academic career could be an option for me? Yes, I could quite imagine myself doing that. But to be honest, I still find it very difficult at this stage to imagine what the future holds professionally. I feel like there’s lots of stuff out there I could be interested in that I haven’t discovered yet. That’s why I’m aiming for a Master’s degree, so I can dive a bit further into the world of academia. In line with my subjects – English and popular culture studies – I could also imagine doing a job with an international focus. My current role is giving me a good insight into that.

What helps me to combine work and study is, first of all my fixed workload. The two working days at Global Student Experience are guided by my timetable. That’s a huge luxury. Many students who work part-time don’t have that freedom and have to cut corners. If there’s a seminar I’m interested in, then it’s the job that adapts to me.

Second, I’m a very organized person. I like to manage my diary and to make to-do lists so I have an overview of what I’ve got coming up. And this is not only something I do for work, but also in my studies and in my free time. Being organized allows me to reconcile all the things I like doing. From the outside, my life seems pretty jam-packed. Compared to other students, maybe I’m a little excessive.”


Mira Dhirai Peiler is studying English and popular culture studies and completes her Bachelor’s degree this year. She also works part-time as a student employee in the Global Student Experience team.

We’re stronger together”

Bea Latal and Oskar Jenni are both professors of developmental pediatrics at UZH. They have been jointly heading the Child Development Center at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich for 11 years. Below they tell us what makes for successful collaboration.

Chat from Bea Latal: “Hey Oskar, could you quickly read through my presentation for the conference on Monday? Particularly the colored bits as they concern our collaborative work. Thanks so much! Best, Bea”

Chat from Oskar Jenni: “Dear Bea! Sure, I’ll do it this weekend. We have an employee appraisal on Tuesday. It would be great if we could have a quick chat beforehand. Have you got time in the morning? Best, Oskar.”

Bea Latal: That’s co-management in action. Chats like this are an example of our good teamwork – we communicate with each other a lot. When two people are in charge, they have to be able to work together effectively. We share responsibility, make joint decisions and can work well together. And we’ve been doing so for over 11 years!

Oskar Jenni: Remo Largo retired in 2005. I initially took over as head of the department on my own with Bea as my deputy. We quickly realized that it’s easier and above all takes the pressure off if you can share responsibility. Bea and I always worked well together, so the co-management arrangement in 2012 was not only a purely organizational decision, but rather the logical consequence of an organic development. Under our co-management, the department has grown from 30 people in 2005 to 100 now in the areas of research, teaching, developmental pediatric polyclinic, speech therapy and the special education unit. Four hands simply get more done than two!

“When two people are in charge, they have to be able to work together effectively.”

Bea Latal

Professor of developmental pediatrics

Latal: We really work together hand in hand. But we can also see certain things very differently. Because there’s an atmosphere of psychological security between us, we can communicate openly, express differing opinions and ask critical questions. If only one person is in charge, often their individual preferences and experiences will color their management decisions. And this means other viewpoints can be forgotten. If we as co-heads have different views, we are “forced” in a positive way to switch perspectives and to engage in a careful, constructive dialogue.

Jenni: Co-heads have to communicate well, see things from different perspectives and be able to understand others’ views. And they have to be prepared to share power. You have to have confidence in other people to do a good job. All this leads to better output. Successful cooperation of co-heads can also set an example for the whole department – in the sense of  complex challenges being very successfully mastered together as a team!

Latal: While similar skills and attitudes are helpful in leadership, at the same time it is important to have completely different interests in other areas. So, for example, we do our own things – for example in research – and don’t get in each other’s way. (Laughs) Obviously we know what the other is working on at any given time. And we also support each other.

Jenni: For example, I’m continuing the Zurich longitudinal studies, which comprise a number of studies that have been conducted at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich since the 1950s. We are currently looking at the adult study participants – some of whom are now of retirement age – and so we have a life-span study that is the only one of its kind in the world. We want to find out what factors in childhood and adolescence influence health and wellbeing in middle and old age.

Latal: My research interests concern the development of children who have a risk of developmental disorders. This includes babies born prematurely, children who had a difficult birth and children with congenital malformations, such as complex heart defects. We want to understand which children are particularly vulnerable and develop interventions that improve these children’s development opportunities and therefore lead to better quality of life.

Jenni: In terms of teaching, the tasks are clearly divided: Bea is responsible for the education and teaching of students in developmental pediatrics. She is also director of the clinical science PhD program and the Faculty of Medicine’s ‘Filling the Gap’ junior staff development program. Meanwhile, I’m responsible for continuing education and training in developmental pediatrics: for example for the postgraduate UZH CAS (Certificate of Advanced Studies) programs and the basic course in developmental pediatrics, which all prospective pediatricians in Switzerland have to complete. I also head up the faculty professorial promotion committee.

Latal: Supporting junior researchers is important to both of us. We supervise both Master’s students and PhD candidates in our respective research projects. The joint management arrangement brings synergies – for example the joint research lunch, the retreat, the joint seminars. The creation and development of a joint knowledge base within our department is an enormous benefit to junior researchers.

“We quickly realized that it’s easier and above all takes the pressure off if you can share responsibility.”

[Translate to English:] Oskar Jenni

Professor of developmental pediatrics

Jenni: Some leaders still have some reservations about co-management arrangements. It was the same when we started working together. There are certainly examples that have failed. In such cases, a thorough analysis is needed on the reasons why the collaboration didn’t work.

Latal: When there are two people in charge, there can always be uncertainty and tension. Supervisors and team members might not always know who to contact if they have problems. The responsibilities of the two co-heads therefore need to be clear and communicated transparently.

Jenni: The fact is that we’re stronger together. We were delighted that UZH named us both associate professors ad personam for developmental pediatrics in 2020.

Latal: A year later, we received the Guido Fanconi Memorial Prize from the Swiss Society of Paediatrics. This was also in recognition of the way in which we embody a modern co-management model and the fact that the field of developmental pediatrics has significantly evolved, both in Switzerland and internationally.


Prof. Bea Latal, associate professor of developmental pediatrics at UZH, co-head of department, chief of service of the developmental pediatrics department,  pediatrician with a focus on developmental pediatrics, head of the research group “Children’s Heart and Development”.

Prof. Oskar Jenni, associate professor of developmental pediatrics at UZH, co-head of department, chief of service of the developmental pediatrics department, pediatrician with a focus on developmental pediatrics, proficiency certificate in sleep medicine, head of the Zurich longitudinal studies on child development.

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