40th Anniversary Gala

25 Oct. 2014

On October the 25th 2014, the MIT club of Switzerland celebrated its 40th birthday with a gala event at the Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten in Zürich.

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In these historic walls, over 80 guests from Switzerland and abroad were treated to intellectual fireworks that highlighted the leadership of MIT Alumni in their fields, revisiting the Institute’s culture of “Drinking from a Fire hose”. The President of the University of Zürich, Michael Hengartner PhD ’94 delivered a keynote address on “The Next 40 Years in Life Sciences”, predicting that society will face 3 key challenges: an aging society, exploding health care costs, and the likelihood of catastrophic events.

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Michael waxed philosophic by observing that “genetically, we are like Cro-Magnon men. What saves us from being savages is a very thin veneer of culture”, then closing his presentation with best birthday wishes for the club.

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Michael’s glimpse into the future of life sciences was followed up by a panel discussion featuring 5 experts imagining the next 40 years in a broad range of topics. Moderated by Norm Mazer, Victor Garzon spoke on Energy (“Renewable sources of energy, wind power and economic forms of electricity will drive the need for new storage technologies…We will also have to balance the human needs and their impact on the environment”), Howard Hornfeld more specifically on Fusion energy (“New electricity will come from fusion, the opposite of fission…if we can control it, my body mass would be the equivalent of 1 million tons of coal without greenhouse gases or toxicity…the system works, we know how to do it”), Phil Janson on Computing (“Computers will disappear from view, embedded in everything where physical and virtual are connected”), Stella Schieffer on the Sharing Economy (“Technology has had a huge enabling effect on sharing, helping to match supply and demand, making idle capacity in connected devices visible to consumers. This is market-making”), Ellen Lederman on Finance (“Money makes the world go ‘round…We are going to remain a multicultural, multi-regional world”), and Donald Tillman on Industry-Academic Collaboration (“from a dot to an arrow to a circle…in the future, the city of Cambridge will be the campus of MIT”).

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The Q&A that followed this remarkable series of visions and predictions was opened by Prof. Ralf Eichler, president of ETH, (who was reportedly observed computing the proof of the equation on the nerd shirt that Norm had draped over his moderator’s table).

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The day was far too short to explore all the possibilities that the panel presented (speaker cvs and summaries are posted below), but fortunately, there was dinner.

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The event brought together 6 of our club’s presidents (one founding member), from all over Switzerland, as well as representatives from our sister clubs ETH and LSE.

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Special thanks go to Eva Krug who secured the special funding, and especially to Katie Silverthorne who invested months of project management to make the event possible. Together with our alumni, distinguished guests, and speakers, the 40th anniversary was a celebration to remember, and an inspiration for our future as a club.

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Bublu Thakur-Weigold

Gala Panel CVs
MIT Gala Hengartner Keynote next 40yrs Life Sciences
MIT Gala Panel Garzon Energy
MIT Gala Panel Hornfeld Fusion
MIT Gala Panel Janson Computing
Sharing Economy 2050 Stella Schieffer
MIT Gala Panel Lederman Global Finance