Caterina Biscari, Italian, 65 years old, married with one daughter. Born in Sicily, Caterina lived in Madrid, Geneva and Rome before moving to Barcelona 10 years ago. An experimental physicist specialising in particle accelerators, she has been the director of the ALBA Synchrotron since 2012. ALBA is a significant scientific infrastructure that provides public and private, national and international research with powerful analytical instruments for the study of matter with countless applications in the fields of life sciences and materials science.
Why did you choose Barcelona?
The reason was that I got the opportunity to come and lead a scientific infrastructure of great relevance, which at that time was just starting its operation. But the fact that ALBA was on the outskirts of a fantastic city like Barcelona, with a Mediterranean character that makes me feel at home, weighed heavily in my decision.
What are the city’s strengths?
There are many positive aspects. First and foremost, its people, its multiculturalism and its ability to welcome different communities. Then its beauty, both architectural and natural, with surroundings that include beaches, mountains, ancient and modern urbanism. Also the cultural offer of museums and musical shows. Its gastronomic offer. And of course its scientific institutes and infrastructures and its universities.
Which aspects of the city need to be improved? How?
The traffic. Although the public transport service network is already quite good, the offer should be increased. For instance, the service of the surrounding towns and cities should be increased, so that workers who live in Barcelona and work abroad, or vice versa, don't use the private car. This also means improving the air we breathe and, above all, reducing the emission of gases that are harmful to the environment.
What are the strengths that will help the city overcome the COVID-19 crisis?
Barcelona has reacted with great energy to the crisis. New commercial activities have been created, recovering the rhythms of before the pandemic. Next Generation Europe funds are being used to improve the sustainability of buildings, in addition of course to strengthening the research fabric.
What challenges do you think the city will face once it recovers from the health emergency?
Like everyone else, the economic crisis due to the war in progress, the cost of energy, and above all climate change. It is important to have long-term plans that are cross-cutting and shared by all the political forces that will take turns. Climate change knows no political colour. In addition, there is the challenge of finding the right balance between tourism and the city's inhabitants, ensuring that the latter have the possibility of living in the city.
What do you expect from Barcelona in the coming years?
It should continue to focus on science and innovation rather than tourism. It should broaden its horizons beyond Tibidabo and consider large facilities such as the ALBA Synchrotron and the possibility of developing a new scientific and innovation hub in the surrounding area to continue to attract talent and investment.
Which city do you consider to be your home city? What do you miss most?
Barcelona is my city today and I think it will be forever. Naturally I miss the smell of jasmine from my early childhood in Sicily. The street in Madrid between the school and my house that will always be my street and the luminous sky of its sunsets. From Rome, where my daughter was born, I miss the overwhelming beauty of its streets full of art everywhere and the Italian food, which for me is the best in the world, without taking anything away from the gastronomic offer of my Barcelona.
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