Ursula Keller, ETH Zurich

International Councilor

Educational History

  • Ph.D. Applied Physics, Stanford University (1989)
  • M.S. Applied Physics, Stanford University (1987)
  • B.S. Physics, ETH Zurich (1984)

URL for Full Bio or CV

Top 5 Honors, Awards, or Recognition

  • IEEE Edison Medal (2019)
  • European Inventor Award, Lifetime Achievement (2018)
  • Charles H. Townes Award, OSA (2015)
  • Arthur L. Schawlow Award, LIA’s highest achievement award (2013)
  • EPS Senior Prize for Applied Aspects of Quantum Electronics and Optics (2011)

Membership in Other Societies

  • Board member of larger professional organizations:

    • Director-at-Large, OSA (2010-2012)
    • EPS in quantum electronics (1996-1998 co-opted), (1998-2004 elected), (2005-2007 co-opted)
    • Elected member of the Board of Governors, IEEE LEOS (2000-2002)

Other Relevant Experience

  • Many international conference program committees:

    • Conference Chair, ECOC (2011); CLEO Europe (2005, 2007); Advanced Solid-State Lasers (1999, 2000); Ultrafast Optics (1999); Ultrafast Dynamic Imaging of Matter (UDIM) (2015); VECSELs at Photonics West (2011, 2019); Editorial board: Applied Physics B: Ultrafast Lasers and Photonic Devices (1994-2013), Laser Physics Letters (since 2005), Laser & Photonics Reviews (since 2009)
    • Director, NCCR MUST (Molecular Ultrafast Science and Technology)


I see myself as a scientist beyond national borders, and APS should promote an international standard of a code of conduct for scientists in collaboration with other similar organizations worldwide. Our scientific standards help us to keep up our communication on a worldwide level which makes me proud of being part of this community. It is in all our interests that every scientist can excel in their work across the world, and APS should continue to reach out and help maintain our standards at an international level.

We currently see major interrelated societal changes in the world: in politics, the media, the dramatic changes of the role of social media, bringing new challenges to societal “elites” and to knowledge issues. These are having a major impact on universities worldwide, including questioning of authority by students, by politicians and media of the societal role of universities, including the “use” of academic research and a questioning and changing view of the nature of academic qualifications. Traditional hierarchical research structures are challenged by a rapidly-changing research landscape.

Everybody has a right to their own opinions but not to their own facts. We as scientists carry a very high responsibility to promote fact-based communication and reasoning with the highest level of conduct based on fundamental principles. As in any organization, we have to deal with a broad distribution of people, and will also have to deal with scientific and social misconduct occasionally. It is our responsibility to clearly explain to the public how science works, how we address such issues, and how our methods will ultimately correct scientific errors and misconduct. This is important to maintain and increase the level of trust from the general public worldwide. Within APS, we can formulate our international expectations of being scientists and our mission to push forward the knowledge horizon with open access publications. We should clearly communicate our guidelines for peer review, citations of prior work, and general good governance to promote scientific work at the highest level.

Science and technology shape our daily lives, and physics is a discipline that opens new possibilities and opportunities for the future. Everybody should play a part in shaping this future. If we expand the talent pool with women and minorities, then the average performance and innovation potential also increase. Leaky pipelines–the trend of minority participation dropping off from increasing career and leadership positions–can be found not only in physics, but to some degree in most disciplines. Evidence shows a correlation between a higher proportion of women and minorities in leadership positions and the success of an organization. An organization’s senior management–its personality, motivation, and goals–are crucial for changing the culture. If these issues are not a priority, if the leadership lacks experience of or cannot relate personally to these issues, then there may well be a lack of understanding and awareness of these concerns. Here, APS can continue communication and persuasion efforts and provide general guidelines that can be adapted by APS committees and international leadership with good corporate governance principles to better empower women and minorities in physics all over the world.

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Ursula Keller