«My curiosity is what drives me.»

Barabara König

Prof. Dr. Barbara König
Behavioural scientist, Zoology. Barbara König researches animal behaviour.


1974–1979 Biology degree, University of Konstanz, Germany
1980 Graduate student, Zoology, Monash University,
Melbourne, Australia
1981–1985 Doctoral studies in Biology, University of Konstanz,
1985–1988 Postdoctoral studies in Biology, University of Basel,
1995 Postdoctoral qualification in Zoology, University of
Würzburg, Germany
1996 Heisenberg Scholarship from the Deutsche
Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Funding Organisation)
1996-2012 Associate Professor in Zoology, Animal Behavior, University of Zurich, Switzerland
since 2012 Full Professor in Zoology, Animal Behaviour, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Prof. Dr. Barbara König

What made you decide to become an academic?
My curiosity has always been what drives me – carving out an academic career was not my original goal. After completing my postdoctoral studies, I worked as a translator for eighteen months, before taking up another scientific post. It was only then that I actively decided to pursue an academic career.

What do you like about your job?
My work is very satisfying in many respects. I find it both intellectually challenging and fun. I particularly enjoy learning about biological diversity and all the fascinating behaviours which the evolutionary process has given rise to. My job also gives me the opportunity to meet some incredibly interesting people. And I enjoy working with young people, too.

Have you experienced any dry spells or disappointments in your career?
How did you overcome these?

By their very nature, science and research involve dry spells: the focus is on things you either don’t yet know or don't understand, so you're constantly faced with your own ignorance.

How do you maintain your work-life balance?
To me, the fact that I can still be a scientist in my free time is a privilege and one which I take advantage of - I always have my binoculars with me when I’m travelling.

Do you have any advice for young, ambitious female researchers?
Your starting point and drive should be your own curiosity and passion for your subject, rather than pursuing a certain career path. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the inevitable decision between career and family as those around you may well be more understanding than you think if children enter the equation. Your scientific productivity may well be hindered temporarily and your organisational talent will be frequently tested, but ultimately the important thing is whether you can achieve your desires and goals.

Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
University of Zurich
Winterthurerstrasse 190
CH-8057 Zurich
Tel. +41 44 635 52 70
barbara.koenig (at) ieu.uzh.ch