«You have to want to make your dreams come true.»

Esther Stoeckli

Prof. Dr. Esther Stoeckli
Biologist, Neurobiology. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that underlie the establishment of neuronal circuits.


1980 –1985 Degree and diploma in Biochemistry, University of Zurich
1985 –1990 Ph.D. in Biochemistry, University of Zurich
1990 –1992 Postdoctoral studies, University of Zurich
1992 –1996 Postdoc, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, USA 
Postdoc, University of California, San Francisco, USA
1997 –2002 START-fellow (equivalent to Assistant Professor), Dept. of Integrative Biology, University of Basel
2002– 2009 Associate Professor, Dept. of Zoology, University of Zurich
2010 -2012 Associate Professor, Inst. of Molecular Life Sciences, University of Zurich
seit 2012 Full Professor, Institute of Molecular Life Sciences, University of Zurich

Website Prof. Dr. Esther Stoeckli

What made you decide to become an academic?
When I was at school, I came across the book "Denken, Lernen, Vergessen" ("Think, Learn, Forget") by Frederic Vester in a bookshop in Zug. I was totally absorbed by that book. And from that moment on I couldn't stop thinking about what a thought represented at the molecular level. You couldn't study neurobiology when I was at university so I had to choose something else, and I studied biochemistry instead so I could fully get to grips with molecular processes in the body.

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

Dry spells and disappointments are par for the course in cutting-edge research. So it's important to be able to motivate yourself.

Who has given you the most support during your career? And what about in your personal life?
My father taught me that the only way to get anywhere in life is to work hard. He treated me and my brothers alike. When I was about 7, he gave me a hammer and nail and said: "A girl needs to know how to hammer in a nail too!"

How do you make sure you have a good work-life balance?
Anyone who doesn't know me would be forgiven for thinking that I work an awful lot. But I view my workload differently: I can totally lose myself in my work. But at the weekends my husband and I go out on our racing or mountain bikes. We like to go cross-country skiing in the winter, preferably in the Engadin.

What advice would you give to ambitious young female researchers?
You have to want to make your dreams come true. You also need a subject that you are completely passionate about. And being strong-willed helps too. It's also important that you know yourself well enough to know what you really want. Nowadays we are faced with so many choices that the ability to make decisions is highly prized.

Institute of Molecular Biology
University of Zurich
Winterthurerstrasse 190
CH-8057 Zurich
Tel. +41 44 635 48 40
esther.stoeckli (at) imls.uzh.ch