The start of Rosmarie Honegger‘s academic career is reminiscent of a fairy tale. She grew up in the ‚Emmental‘, a rural region of Switzerland where higher education for girls was not a matter of course in those days. Therefore Rosmarie went to a teacher training school although she would have liked to study biology. Already fascinated by lichens, in 1967 two major events played a crucial role in her future. Upon the advice of one of her teachers she submitted her work dealing with the lichens in her village to the Swiss science competition for young people called ‚Schweizer Jugend forscht‘ and won the first prize. Hence she had the possibility to present her work at a similar international science fair in San Francisco – with equal success. As a consequence of this, a professor at the University of Basle became aware of the young woman with great talent and encouraged her to study biology. To get her started, he found an anonymous sponsor to provide financial support.
From 1967 to 1976 she studied biology at the University of Basel with a special focus on botany. In 1976 she obtained her PhD for an investigation of the development and the function of asci of the Lecanora-type using microscopical techniques. A postdoctorate in the laboratory of Professor Hohl at the Institute of Plant Biology at the University of Zurich followed, becoming his assistant in 1977, and senior assistant one year later. A research visit led her to the laboratory of Professor Salomon Bartnicke-Garcia in the Departement of Plant Pathology at the University of California in Riverside. In 1988 she became professor at the University of Zurich, where she continues to work in the Institute of Plant Biology of the University of Zurich.
Glancing at Rosmarie’s publication list one is overwhelmed by the diversity of research fields she has contributed to, namely anatomical, morphological, taxonomical, cytological, ecological, symbiotic, genetical and phylogenetical studies. Equally great is the number of different methods and techniques she has applied to tackle all these diverse questions. What I find most remarkable is her holistic approach to her research activities. High attention was always given to both the mycobiont and the photobiont partners of the lichen symbiosis, and needless to say their interactions were of particular interest to her.
By exploring lichens from different points of view she has expanded our focus, opening up new perspectives and increasing our knowledge of lichens considerably. It is a great pleasure for me to announce that Rosmarie Honegger is honoured with the Acharius medal today for her long and outstanding scientific contribution to lichenology – congratulations Rosmarie!
– Silvia Stofer, Birmensdorf (18 July 2008)