Marcel Benoist Prize 2015 awarded to ant researcher Laurent Keller

Bern, 16.09.2015 - Laurent Keller, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Lausanne, has been awarded this year's Marcel Benoist Prize. Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, the president of the Marcel Benoist Foundation, received Laurent Keller in Bern today and congratulated him on winning this prestigious award

Professor Laurent Keller, Director of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Lausanne, is one of the most renowned researchers in Switzerland in the field of evolutionary biology. He also enjoys a solid reputation at international level. Ants are the subject of his research. His ground-breaking experiments have greatly helped to improve our understanding of natural selection and the social behaviour of animal communities. The findings from this research enable us to draw parallels with human cohabitation such as how people cope with stress or aging processes. For example, he has shown how robots programmed to behave like ants can be more efficiently used when grouped in a swarm.

From his theoretical work and primarily also his experimental research, he has helped drive subsequent development of this research field. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that Professor Laurent Keller is an outstanding mentor: numerous researchers from his team have been able to benefit from his expertise and have themselves gone on to pursue their own academic careers. Laurent Keller also understands very well how to make his research more palatable to the public at large. Among other things, he has authored several popular science books and articles.

Born in 1961 in the Canton of Aargau, Laurent Keller, studied biology at the University of Lausanne, where he obtained his PhD with distinction in 1989. He did several research fellowships, including one at the University of Toulouse (France) and another at the University of Harvard (USA). He also conducted research at the Museum of Zoology in Lausanne. He started receiving grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) already in the early 1990s. In 1994, he worked as an outside lecturer and two years later was given a full professorship in evolutionary ecology by the University of Lausanne. In 1998, he became Director of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Lausanne. He has received numerous awards over the course of his successful career. In the year 2000, he received the national Latsis Prize and in 2010 secured an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Professor Laurent Keller holds seats in many scientific bodies in Switzerland and abroad. Among these, he currently serves as President of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology, a position that he will hold for the period 2015-2017.

The official ceremony to award the Marcel Benoist Prize will be held at the University of Lausanne on 26 October 2015. The prize, considered to be Switzerland's 'Nobel Prize', has been awarded every year since 1920 to scientists based in Switzerland for their the most useful scientific discovery or study, in particular in disciplines which are of significance for human life (further information about the prize can be found at Over the course of its almost hundred year history, 10 laureates have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.

Photos will be posed online on 16 September 2015, starting from 7.00 p.m. (

Address for enquiries

Dani Duttweiler,
Secretary of the Marcel Benoist Foundation,
State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation SERI,
Tel. +41 58 462 45 60,


Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research