We met up at 8:30AM after a quick breakfast in the hotel. We walked up the hill to University of Zurich and met with the President of the University- Andreas Fisher, Dr. Yasmine Inauen, and a graduate student Xenia Goslicka. A couple of interesting facts:
Graduate schools in Europe are not common and the University of Zurich has begun a “graduate campus,” to facilitate more camaraderie and programs amongst graduate students. This is different that what we think of as a graduate school which oversees graduate programs. We also heard that University of Zurich is the largest state university and the 2nd oldest. Being that my interest is in teaching excellence, I asked about teaching. At University of Zurich and many other European universities, research is most emphasized and most important in the tenure process. The President did mention that they have a reward system for excellence in teaching, but was not more specific. The University does have an office to help with teaching and has programs that help faculty members learn skillsets for teaching in large classroom versus small classroom settings. Another interesting fact about the defense/PhD process was that a student generally defends their dissertation after 3 years, but the degree is not conferred until after the thesis has been published.
We took a tour of the University and I got to ask Xenia questions about being a graduate student and being a mom. We talked about daycare and found out that only recently has the Swiss government guaranteed maternity leave to moms. Daycare is also a relatively new phenomena and available mostly in the cities versus more rural areas. This is a challenge for many working moms.
We then headed to the Science campus of ETH and had a wonderful lunch at WOKA, a Asian wok restaurant. We met with Anders Hagstrom, the director of global education affairs. ETH is different than most American Universities. It was founded in 1855 to drive industrialization and therefore it is focused on applied science. They also have a tenure-track process, but it is relatively new and as of now 13 of 16 departments have adopted it. I asked about teaching excellence and Anders shared that at ETH they have a “Golden Owl” award yearly for the best teacher in each department. The faculty member gets a golden owl statue and a golden owl icon accompanies their name in the online phonebook. He went on to talk about the perception of teaching and how in mechanical engineering, it was challenging to get faculty members to teach the entry level course. By re-phrasing the teaching of this course to be an honor, over time faculty members now vie for the appointment to teach this class.
We next visited the lab of a physics professor Jonathan Home. He works in Quantum Optics and was able to share more of what it is like to be a faculty member. His typical day has him arriving around 8 or 9 and then leaving around 7PM. What we found out was that many European faculty members take a long lunch and many go home to have lunch with their families. So what seems like a really long work-day is broken up by a long lunch. We also found out that new researchers are given 1 million Swiss Francs a year for research. This comes from federal funding and allows researchers to not spend so much time grant writing, but doing primary research.
ETH was hosting an “Inaugural Lecture,” for a new faculty member so we headed back to the main campus of ETH. When we arrived Nicole and I briefly briefed on University of Basel that we would be visiting the next day. When new faculty members are hired, it is an honor for them to give a lecture to the entire University faculty about their research. She had been a faculty member for almost a year and shared her research about the intersection between engineering, design, and computing.
We returned to the hotel briefly and headed to dinner at Wirtschaft Neumarkt where they had a private room for us. It was a three- course dinner, where I had asparagus soup, pesto pasta, and vanilla mousse with raspberry sauce. It was a full but informative day.