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L-R: Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt and Professor Doctor Ursula Keller

An award-winning Swiss scientist and inventor was today (Monday June 16) recognised with an Honorary Degree from Heriot-Watt University.

Professor Doctor Ursula Keller is the first female full professor in the Physics Department at ETH Zurich and Director of the Swiss National Research Centre for Ultrafast Molecular Sciences and Technologies.

Professor Keller’s research interests include exploring and pushing the frontiers of ultrafast science and technology. Her first invention, the Semiconductor Saturable Absorber Mirror (SESAM) allowed ultrafast lasers to move from the laboratory to real-world applications, benefitting scientists, manufacturers and surgeons alike. 

The time I spent at Heriot-Watt University between ETH Zurich and Stanford University really inspired me to continue my research in photonics.

Professor Doctor Ursula Keller

The University nominated Professor Keller for the highest honour it can bestow on someone outside of the institution, in recognition of her pioneering contributions and revolutionary approach to the field of ultrafast lasers and photonics. 

After receiving her Honorary Degree at the university’s Edinburgh Campus from Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Heriot-Watt, Professor Keller, said: “The time I spent at Heriot-Watt University between ETH Zurich and Stanford University really inspired me to continue my research in photonics. I still value the connection and friendships that I made during that time and I am very honoured to receive this recognition today.”

Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt, said: “Throughout her dynamic career, Professor Keller has been at the forefront of research in the field of ultrafast lasers that has enabled the science community the most accurate clocks and to study the near-instantaneous, subatomic reactions.

“It’s fitting that Scotland’s first higher education institution to admit female students should present a Honorary Doctorate to Professor Keller, a clear leader in her field who has long championed for gender equality in science. Her research has also resulted in more than 75 doctorates and more than 50 post-docs in ultrafast laser science, and many of these can be found today in leading research institutes, large corporations, and multiple start-up companies in ultrafast lasers.

“I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Professor Keller on this honour and on her immeasurable contribution to science.”

Professor Keller is recipient of many high-profile accolades including the European Inventor Award 2018 for lifetime achievements in the sector of laser technology.