People behind the Science

Have you ever wondered what motivates other scientists and how they manage their “Work / Life balance”? Read on to find out about what motivates and inspires these two scientists in their work. This series of posts is initiated by the ZNZ Gender Equality Committee.

Prof. Francesca Peri, Assistant Professor, Institute of Molecular Life Sciences

From Padua with several stops in Germany, Francesca came to Switzerland to get a better understanding of neuronal-immune interactions in the brain. With optimism and an understanding husband, she successfully manages to balance her work-life situation.

What motivates you to get up every morning?
Many things, the next experiment, a possible discovery, working on a paper and knowing that at the end of the day I will be with my family.

Who inspired you in your career path?
One in particular, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard my postdoc supervisor. An incredible visionary scientist who encouraged me to always think big.

How do you manage your work-life balance?
My husband and I take care of our daughter together and share the household organization 50/50 – well, let’s be honest 40/60- but he understands what it means to be a scientist and always supports me. However, a day of 30 hours would really help.

What is your philosophy in life?
I am an optimist and when things go wrong I always think that tomorrow it will be better. Sometimes I’m right…

Prof. Martin Mueller, SNSF Assistant Professor, Institute of Molecular Life Sciences

Originally from Germany, Martin exchanged sunny California for studying control of synaptic function in foggy Zurich. For him, work and life are one continuum.

What motivates you to get up every morning?
Neural circuits signaling the prospect of having a cup of coffee, breakfast with my wife, learning and discovering new things, as well as interacting with people.

Who inspired you in your career path?
If I were to name three out of very many people: My grandpa, who inspired me to be curious and excited, my high school arts teacher (also a physics teacher), who sparked my interest in arts and science, and (please don’t laugh!) Galileo Galilei, whose work left a very big impression on me as a teenager. Moreover, the book “The Emotional Brain” by Joseph LeDoux (in whose lab I did a lab rotation later), as well as the down-to-earth attitude of Erwin Neher, the director of the department in which I carried out my PhD studies, really inspired me.

How do you manage your work-life balance?
I am in the luxurious situation in which this term does not really mean a lot to me. Work is an integral part of my life, and I enjoy it as much as my life “outside of science”. Of course, my reward system is stimulated by many things that are not work-related, such as spending time with family and friends, enjoying nature, traveling, sports and arts.

What is your philosophy in life?
That’s a though one – I guess I don’t really have an overarching philosophy of life. I try to be a respectful, open-minded and a realistic optimist. Moreover, I strive to give my best while acknowledging that nobody is perfect.

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