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IBM researcher Heike Riel wins innovation award

Swiss Association of Women in Engineering (SVIN) bestowed its 2012 award in the category "Technical or Scientific Innovation" to Zurich physicist

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Zurich, 29 June 2012—Under the motto “Who Are the Women Shaping Switzerland?” the Swiss Association of Women in Engineering (SVIN) bestowed five awards to influential women in the natural sciences and technology. The five categories comprised Leadership, Technical Innovation, Women’s Development, Politics and Life Accomplishment. The award in the category Technical Innovation went to Heike Riel, physicist at IBM Research – Zurich. The awards were presented yesterday at SVIN’s 20th anniversary event at ETH Zurich.

Heike Riel“Our winners prove that women not only excel in technical fields but also exert considerable influence on society,” praised SVIN managing director Brigitte Manz-Brunner. “With this prize we want to encourage Swiss employers to redouble their efforts to support women and to leverage this excellent potential.”

SVIN described Heike Riel as an outstanding scientist and “a technology expert who has proved her ability to translate fundamental scientific achievements into technical innovations.”

The award recognizes Heike Riel for her seminal contributions and fundamental achievements in the science and technology of nanoscale electronics from organic light-emitting devices for display applications to semiconducting nanowires for ultimate transistors and low-power devices. One of her first major achievements was her work on developing AMOLED displays, which have become commonplace in such devices as smart phones and tablet computers. A scientific breakthrough of this technology was achieved in 2003 with the success of a 20-inch full color display with an active matrix of thin-film transistors of amorphous silicon. Today, Heike Riel and her research group are working on developing energy-efficient transistors for future computer processors, a technology that is expected to have a significant impact on the future of IT.

Interestingly enough, Heike Riel entered the field of science in a rather roundabout fashion. After first serving an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker, she enrolled as a Physics major at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. Following a student internship at Hewlett-Packard Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, she joined the IBM Research – Zurich Laboratory in 1998 and attained her PhD in Physics in 2002. She has been with IBM Research ever since, meanwhile manager of the Nanoscale Electronics group since 2008. In 2005, she received the Swiss Physical Society’s annual award in recognition of her work on AMOLEDs and, in 2003, was listed in the renowned scientific journal M.I.T. Technology Review’s list of the Top 100 most innovative young researchers.

Apart from Heike Riel’s many scientific contributions, she is also active in TechDays events at local schools organized by the Swiss Academy of Technical Sciences. “I’m passionate about encouraging high school students to pursue careers in the natural sciences,” says Riel, who serves as a mentor to young talent.


Achieved by IBM Research in collaboration with International Display Technology (IDTech) and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO).

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Grit Abe
Media Relations
IBM Research - Zurich
Tel +41 44 724 80 60

Press contact

Chris Sciacca
Media Relations
IBM Research - Zurich
Tel +41 44 724 84 43

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