21st Century - Astronomy

C. Marcella Carollo

C. Marcella Carollo worked as a professional astronomer for 25 years between 1994 and 2019. Her scientific career was ended by the ETH Zürich who, following accusations that she had bullied students, made her the first Professor to be dismissed at ETH Zurich[1] in the 165 years of its history. Carollo has maintained her innocence against these accusations,[2] publicly commenting on her case in terms that indicate “academic mobbing”. The dismissal was appealed unsuccessfully to the Swiss Federal Administrative Court.[3]

The case has attracted considerable controversy. It has become a prime exhibit in the debate about due process and the preservation of basic legal rights within academia, especially in German-speaking universities.[4]


Carollo began her studies at the University of Palermo[5] where she earned a laurea degree in physics in 1987, with a specialization in biophysics. She worked for more than four years outside of academia before starting a PhD in astrophysics at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where she graduated in 1994.


Carollo was awarded a European Community Prize Fellowship, which she held at Leiden University from 1994 to 1996. She held a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship[6] at Johns Hopkins University from 1997 to 1999. Carollo was appointed Assistant Professor in the Astronomy Department at Columbia University in 1999, a position she held until 2002. That year, she moved to ETH Zurich as an Associate Professor, in a dual appointment with her spouse Simon Lilly. She was promoted to Full Professor in 2007. She contributed as a member of the Science Oversight Committee to the development of the WFC3 camera[7] which was installed on the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009. In 2012, she entered the Top Italian Scientist list from VIA Academy[8] and in 2013 she was awarded the Winton Capital Research Prize.[9] In 2018, she was identified as a Highly Cited Researcher [10] for her research work at ETH between 2006 and 2016 – one of only about 20 ETH scientists so recognized.


Carollo’s contribution to astronomy is in the fields of extragalactic astronomy and specifically galaxy formation and evolution.[citation needed] Her early work established the relation between the metallicity gradient and stellar mass in galactic spheroids, demonstrated the presence of dark matter halos beyond their half-light radii and was seminal in discovering and characterizing disk-like (pseudo) bulges and nuclear massive star clusters in disk galaxies like the Milky Way.[citation needed] Later she and her ETH group worked on the role of galactic environment and progenitor bias in galaxy evolution, the growth and “quenching” of massive galaxies at high redshifts, and participated in the discovery and characterization of the most distant galaxies in the universe, in the heart of the reionization epoch.


  1. Jump up to:a b “ETH entlässt Professorin nach Mobbing-Vorwürfen”20min.ch (in German). 15 July 2019. Retrieved 2019-07-15.
  2. ^ “C.M. Carollo Press Statement of 31 October 2018” (PDF).
  3. ^ Pfändler, Nils (2022-04-21). “ETH Zürich: Kündigung von Professorin war nicht missbräuchlich”Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 2022-06-30. Retrieved 2022-06-23.
  4. ^ “Verfahren in der Gelehrtenrepublik” (in German). 13 June 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  5. ^ “Carollo’s Hubble Heritage webpage”.
  6. ^ “Space Telescope Science Institute listing of all Hubble Fellows 1990–2016”. Archived from the original on 2017-02-20.
  7. ^ “WFC3 Instrument Handbook”www.stsci.edu. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  8. ^ “Top Italian Scientists”. Archived from the original on 2018-12-04.
  9. ^ “Winton Capital research prize recipients”. Archived from the original on 2016-10-21.
  10. ^ “Highly Cited Researchers”. Archived from the original on 2019-02-20.
  11. ^ “Systematic Failure”Republik. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  12. Jump up to:a b Donzé, René (21 October 2017). “Eklat an der ETH: Professorin mobbt Studenten” [Scandal at the ETH: Professor bullying students]. NZZ am Sonntag (in German). Zurich. Archived from the original on 2023-05-16. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  13. ^ Vogel, Gretchen (25 October 2017). “Swiss university dissolves astronomy institute after misconduct allegations”Science. Washington. doi:10.1126/science.aar3257. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  14. ^ “Report by M. Rüssli” (PDF).
  15. ^ “ETH Press Release 17 January 2018”. 17 January 2018.
  16. Jump up to:a b “We should treat each other with respect”. Zurich. 14 March 2019. Retrieved 2019-03-24.
  17. ^ “ETH Zürich leitet Entlassungsverfahren ein” (in German). Zurich. 31 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  18. Jump up to:a b “Schlangengrube ETH” (in German). 27 March 2019.
  19. ^ “I want a climate where everyone can fulfill their potential”. Zurich. 14 March 2019. Retrieved 2019-03-24.
  20. ^ “Report of the Swiss Federal Audit Office” (PDF) (in German).
  21. ^ “Weltspitze aber überfordert die ETH hat im Mobbing Fall versagt” (in German). 15 July 2019.
  22. ^ “Republik dossier on the ETH case”Republik (in German). 11 July 2019.
  23. ^ “Systematic Failure”Republik. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  24. ^ “Power and Impotence”Republik. 20 March 2019. Retrieved 2019-03-28.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ “Rigged Game”Republik. 21 March 2019. Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  26. ^ “Als wären Studierende zarte schwache hilflose Wesen” (in German). 25 March 2019.
  27. ^ Pfändler, Nils (2022-04-21). “ETH Zürich: Kündigung von Professorin war nicht missbräuchlich”Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 2022-06-30. Retrieved 2022-06-23.

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