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“It’s a good time to rethink Barcelona”, by Kristina Haase

“It’s a good time to rethink Barcelona”, by Kristina Haase

Image: Montserrat Coll-Lladó

Kristina Haase is 40 years old and married. Born in Canada, Kristina studied mechanical engineering at the University of Ottawa before moving to the United States to do a postdoc at MIT in Boston. Three years ago, she moved to Barcelona to lead a research group at EMBL Barcelona, one of the six centers European Molecular Biology Laboratory, the main European research network for life sciences. She and her team generate blood vessels on chips in order to study blood-vessel-related diseases, such as Covid-19 and preeclampsia, in the lab.

Why did you choose Barcelona?

The new EMBL center in Barcelona is an excellent location for my research group.  Its location in the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park makes it possible to collaborate closely with other institutes.

Barcelona is home to a large community of exceptional biologists, and it has an excellent reputation for biotechnology and medical research. I appreciate the fact that many doctors in the city are so involved in research and willing to collaborate with groups like ours. These collaborations are not always so easy to establish in other parts of the world.

What would you say are Barcelona’s strengths?

Barcelona attracts people from all over the world, which makes it a multicultural, dynamic and lively city. In the field of science, this means there are many opportunities to create communities and synergies, and to share scientific discoveries.

What needs to be improved? How?

The bureaucracy in a foreign country can be quite overwhelming at first, especially if one does not speak the language. The Barcelona International Welcome Desk, created by Barcelona Global, together with Barcelona City Council, is a great initiative.

If Barcelona wants to attract more international talent, good salaries and services are essential, especially for scientists, who are constantly moving from one country to another and need help to move and settle down in new places.

What do you think will help Barcelona overcome the Covid-19 crisis?

The high vaccination rates and the readiness to do what is necessary to protect public health are to be commended, especially in the face of opposition from certain sectors. For a city with this population density that places a high value on social life, I commend the local government for their handling of the crisis.

What challenges do you think the city faces now the health emergency is almost over?

The end of restrictions has restored our sense of normalcy. I think now is a good time to rethink Barcelona and to break its dependence on tourism. I think this city is a great place for industries based on technology and for developing strong and competitive businesses.

What do you expect from Barcelona in the coming years?

Barcelona is beginning to attract professionals from the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries worldwide. This city will be a great place for collaborations between industry and academia, as well as for the development of the new spin-off companies that are likely to fuel the city’s future economy.

Where do you feel most at home? What do you miss most?

After 3 years in the city, and now that the travel and COVID restrictions have been lifted, I can say that I feel more and more at home in Barcelona. The bustling streets of the city, the beaches, and the nearby hills of Collserola are what makes Barcelona unique.

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El Periódico

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