Viola Vogel is Professor of Applied Mechanobiology in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology (D-HEST) at the ETH Zurich and chaired D-HEST from 2018-2020. She holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Frankfurt (1987) and conducted her research at the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen (1980-88) for which she received the Otto-Hahn Medal (1988). After her postdoctoral studies in the Department of Physics at UC Berkeley in nonlinear optics, she started her academic career at the University of Washington Seattle in Bioengineering (1990-2004) and was the founding Director of the Center for Nanotechnology (1997-2003). When moving to ETH Zurich in 2004, she initially joined the Department of Materials and then co-founded (2012) and later chaired (2018-2020) the Department Health Sciences and Technology (D-HEST).
With her background in Physics and Bioengineering, she pioneered the rapidly growing field
of Molecular Mechanobiology and its medical applications, as she discovered many structural mechanisms how mechanical forces can turn proteins into mechano-chemical switches. Such mechanisms are exploited by bacteria, as well as by mammalian cells and tissues to sense and respond to mechanical forces, and if abnormal, can cause various diseases. Her research was recognized by major awards, including an ERC Advanced Grant on “Proteins as Mechano-Chemical Switches” (2008-13), the International Solvay Chair in Chemistry Brussels 2012. She serves on various international advisory boards in the fields of nanotechnology and bioengineering, including on the White House panel that finalized the US National Nanotechnology Initiative under the Clinton administration (1999), as well as for the Max-Planck Society, A*STAR and CREATE in Singapore and the Wyss Institute in Boston. She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy from Tampere University, Finland (2012), she served on the Board of Regents of the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich (2011-19), serves on the Board of Trustees of the Gordon Research Conference Organisation since 2018, and is an Einstein Fellow at the Charité Berlin since 2017. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering USA (NAE) since 2018 and of the National Academy of Siences USA (NAS) since 2020, the National German Academy Leopoldina since 2018, and of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences since 2019. She is Member of the Jury of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering since 2014.