Viola Vogel is Professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology (D-HEST) and is directing the Laboratory of Applied Mechanobiology at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. She holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Frankfurt (1987) based on her research conducted at the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen (1980-88). 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) the Department Health Sciences and Technology (D-HEST), in which she later served as Vice Chair (2016-2018) and then Chair (2018-2020). As most knowledge in Biology and Medicine is based on equilibrium structures of proteins, even today, she co-founded the ETH start-up Company Tandem Therapeutics in 2023 with the goal to exploit emerging knowledge in Mechanobiology for medical applications, with a focus in regenerative medicine. In this context, she also became an Einstein Visiting Fellow at Charité Berlin in 2018.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 material properties, and if abnormal, can cause various diseases. She showed further how bacteria, platelets, immune and stem cells are functionally tuned by mechanobiological factors, and how this impacts our abilities to fight infections, as well as blood coagulation and tissue growth processes.Her work was internationally recognized by numerous awards, major lectureships, services for international organizations and Institutions (Gordon Research Conferences Organization, Wyss Institute Boston, Human Frontiers Science Program, British Marshall Fund, Humboldt Foundation, Max-Planck Society, LMU Munich, etc), the U.S. government (including the PCAST committee that finalized the national Nanotechnology Initiative, the National Research Council and NASA), scientific advisory boards in Germany, France, Netherlands, U.S.A., Singapore, and the U.K.. She was awarded the Otto-Hahn Medal (1989), the Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics (2006), the International Solvay Chair in Chemistry (Brussels 2012), and received an ERC Advanced Grant (2008), as well as an Honorary Doctoral Degree from Tampere University (2012). She was a member of the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum, serves on the Jury of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (since 2015) and was elected into the Leopoldina (2018), the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (2019), as well as the US National Academy of Engineering (2020) and the National Academy of Sciences (2021).