Professor Dr. Silvia Dorn

Researching solutions for a more sustainable world food system

Professor Silvia Dorn is Emerita Professor of Applied Entomology at ETH Zurich. Her research focuses on insect-plant interactions as a basis for a more sustainable management of agricultural ecosystems.

After gaining a degree in biology, she completed her doctoral dissertation in phytomedicine at ETH Zurich in 1974. She was then employed by Dr. R. Maag AG, now part of Syngenta, as their first female scientist. Here she played a leading role in the discovery, development and market launch of the novel plant protectant fenoxycarb. This environmentally friendly insect growth regulator disrupts the pest’s ability to develop from the juvenile into the reproductive stage. This innovation triggered the rapid switch from conventional fruit production to the more ecologically sound integrated production in over 20 countries from the 1980s on.

In 1992 Silvia Dorn was appointed professor at ETH Zurich, one of the first women to be elected a full professor at ETH. Her research has garnered her many awards. One award-winning idea was borne out of a collaboration with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Columbia on the post-harvest protection of grain legumes. Thanks to a clever combination of resistant cultivars and a native beneficial insect, she was able to drastically reduce storage losses of this staple food. Silvia Dorn is also very committed to the cause of women in science. As a co-founder of the “ETH Women Professors’ Forum” she encourages young women to choose a career in science, and motivates outstanding women to take on important positions right up into the top tiers.

With her seminal research work in applied entomology, Prof. Dr. Silvia Dorn is making a significant contribution to a more sustainable supply of food all around the world.