The Switzer Prize
Exploration with the potential to inspire transformative change
Honoring the basic research that facilitates breakthroughs in patient care.
Neuroscientist Amita Sehgal won the 2021 Switzer Prize, which honors excellence in basic science research. Her pioneering discoveries of mechanisms that regulate circadian rhythms and sleep have deepened scientists’ understanding of behavioral cycles, metabolism, and healthy aging.
About the Switzer Prize
The Switzer Prize recognizes discoveries in basic research in the biological and biomedical sciences that have the potential to inspire transformative breakthroughs in medicine.
The prize is awarded annually to an individual investigator whose recent work has revealed new paradigms, illuminated biological processes or pathways, or explained the origins of pathologies or diseases.
The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA established the prize to promote the importance of basic sciences research, which advances the understanding of biological systems and human physiology. Such research – a priority at UCLA – is essential to continued improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of illnesses.
The winner will receive a $25,000 honorarium and present an annual Switzer Prize lecture at UCLA. During a two-day visit, the recipient also will meet with students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and others. The Switzer Prize is named in recognition of the generosity of Irma and Norman Switzer, who made a major gift to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
"An enduring legacy of two people who clearly cared about the future of medicine and science."
The Switzer Prize honors revolutionary discoveries in basic research in the biological and biomedical sciences and celebrates recent advances with the potential to inspire transformative breakthroughs in medicine. The prize is awarded to an individual investigator whose recent work has revealed new paradigms, illuminated biological processes or pathways, or explained the origins of pathologies or diseases. The recent work must show the potential for continued outstanding contributions to the field.
Nominations are open to national and international candidates from any institution. Nominations may be made by an individual or institutions, but self-nominations are prohibited.
To nominate a researcher for the 2022 Switzer Prize, please complete a nomination form and submit a letter of nomination along with a short summary. The summary should include no more than 100 words summarizing the nominee’s most important accomplishments, in addition to the letter of recommendation explaining his or her contributions to basic research in the biological or biomedical sciences.
Nominations may be made only via this website. Nominations will not be accepted by email or delivery of hard copies.
For General Inquiries:
Switzer Prize Committee
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
10833 Le Conte Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Committee staff: Dion Baybridge
Phone: (310) 794-7374
The deadline for nominations is March 31, 2022.
The winner, to be named in Spring 2022, will receive a $25,000 honorarium. The recipient will deliver the annual Switzer Prize lecture at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Fall 2022.
- See selection committee
Kathrin Plath, Committee Chair, Professor of
Olujimi Ajijola, Director
Medical Scientist Training Program
Judy Gasson, Sr. Advisor
Research and Innovation
Ming Guo, Professor of Neurology
and Molecular & Medical
Brigitte Gomperts, Associate Professor
Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
Emilie Marcus, Executive Strategy Officer
Jeffery F. Miller, Professor of
Microbiology, Immunology &
Peter Tontonoz, Professor of
Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
Owen Witte, Professor of
Microbiology, Immunology &
Molecular Genetics and Molecular
& Medical Pharmacology
Larry Zipursky, Chair
Selection committee members, appointed by the dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, are faculty members representing a range of research expertise in biological and biomedical sciences. The committee independently reviews nominations and selects the prize winner.
|2020||Amita Sehgal, PhD||Using a Small Animal Model to Understand How and Why We Sleep|
|2019||Zhijian (James) Chen, PhD||The Dark Side of DNA - How DNA Triggers Immune Defense and Autoimmune Disease|
|2018||David Sabatini, MD, PhD||mTOR and Lysosomes in Growth Control|
|2017||Huda Zoghbi, MD||Genetics and Neurophysiological Approaches to Tackle Neurodevelopmental Disorders|
|2015||Jennifer Doudna, PhD||The CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Engineering Revolution|
|2014||David Eisenberg, Dphil||The amyloid state of proteins: from fundamentals to disease applications|
|2013||Zhu Chen, MD||Translational Medicine from Cure of Leukemia to Universal Coverage|
|2012||Huda Zoghbi, MD||Neurobiology of Rett Syndrome and Related Neuropsychiatry Disorder|
|2010||Richard P. Lifton, MD, PhD||Genes, Genomes and the future of Medicine|
|2009||Eric Olson, PhD||MicroRNA Control of Heart Development and Disease|
|2008||Joanne Brugge, PhD||Mechanisms of Cell Death that Regulate Survival During Morphogenesis and Tumorigenesis|
|2006||Salvador Moncada, MD, PhD||Mitochondrial Interactions: The Next Frontier in Nitric Oxide Research|
|2005||Ronald Evans, PhD||PPARdelta and the Marathon Mouse: Runaway Physiology|
|2004||Carla Shatz, PhD||Brain Waves and Immune Genes in Synapse Remodeling and Plasticity|
|2002||Jerard Diamond, PhD||The Next Half Billion Cases of Diabetes' Evolution and Future|
|2001||Seymour Benzer, PhD||Adventures with Genes, Neurons, and Behavior in Drosophila|
|2000||Robert Horvitz, PhD||Genetic Control of Apoptosis in Caenorhabditis elegans|
|1999||Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD||New Ways of Thinking About Telomeres and Telomerase|
|1998||Richard Axel, MD||The Molecular Logic of Olfactory Perception|
|1996||Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD||The Human Genome Project and the Future of Medicine|
Irma and Norman Switzer
An Enduring Legacy
The Switzer Prize is named in recognition of Irma and Norman Switzer, a Pacific Palisades couple who bequeathed a major gift to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Friends remembered them as humble people who lived modest lives and liked to work with their hands.
Norman Switzer, a Korean War veteran, devised the concept of adding benches to bus stops throughout Los Angeles. In exchange for funding and building the benches, the city awarded his company a 20-year exclusive on advertising.
Norman Bench Ads
Bus-bench ads became known in the industry as “Norman Bench Ads” – a nod to his advertising company and his concept. Switzer later sold the business and became a real estate investor, often working on the properties himself. Norman Switzer died in 2011 at the age of 84.
Irma Switzer, an accomplished weaver, and member of the Palisades Weavers group, physically built two homes in Manhattan Beach with a friend. She died in 2013 at the age of 93.
In their will, the Switzers left $50 million to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, for use on priorities selected by school leaders. When the gift was announced in 2014, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block called it “an enduring legacy of two people who clearly cared about the future of medicine and science.”
Repairing People, Making Discoveries
In their honor, the UCLA Health Sciences Plaza has been renamed the Irma and Norman Switzer Plaza – a location traversed by thousands of physicians, scientific researchers, and students.
At the naming ceremony, a friend said Norman Switzer liked to invest in people who knew how to fix things - which is “the heart of medicine, repairing people and making discoveries - and by giving to UCLA, he was giving to the guys who ‘fix stuff’.”
The couple was also involved with the Fowler Museum at UCLA and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.