Interview | Noticie

In her first interview since becoming President of Academia Europaea, Professor Marja Makarow tells us about her leadership roles and sets out some of her priorities for Academia Europaea

20 juliol 2023 | Interview, Noticie

About Professor Marja Makarow MAE

Professor Marja Makarow is a Molecular Cell Biologist. She has been Director of Biocenter Finland, Vice-President of the Finnish Research Council – Academy of Finland, Vice-Rector of the University of Helsinki and Chief Executive of the European Science Foundation. Professor Makarow advised the EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation in the European Research Area Board, and the Finnish Government in the Council for Research and Innovation Policy. She is a Board member of the European Innovation Council and former member of the Governing Board of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology. She has served as President of the European Molecular Biology Conference and delegate of Finland in the council of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, and she established the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland. Professor Makarow was elected to the Academia Europaea in 2009. Her term as AE President commenced on 1st January 2022.

The interview

Tell us a little about your background and the key highlights from your career so far that have led you to your new role as Academia Europaea’s President.

“I am a national of Finland and a European, having been schooled in French, German and Finnish, and having lived and worked for 11 years in The Netherlands, Germany and France.

After completing a PhD at the University of Helsinki and a postdoc at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, I became Group Leader and then Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at my alma mater. With my postdocs and PhD candidates, we discovered molecular mechanisms that guide the folding of nascent proteins in the eukaryotic cell and transport them to intra-cellular organelles and the exterior of the cell. 

As Vice-President for Research, Researcher Training and Innovation, the focus on my own research expanded into a passion to serve the research community at large. I became inspired by all the disciplines at my university, and learnt to appreciate their distinct research cultures and outcomes.

As a consequence, I decided to make a career shift to positions where I could serve researchers of all disciplines, at both a national and European level. I moved to Strasbourg to serve as Chief Executive of the European Science Foundation, which  was funded by research funding and performing organisations of 30 countries to support cross-border collaboration in Europe. On my return to Finland, I became Vice-President of the Finnish Research Council (the Academy of Finland), and then Director of Biocenter Finland, an umbrella organisation for the country’s five biocentres.

Over the years, I have contributed to the establishment, governance, management and evaluation of many research universities. I have given advice on science policy to the EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Finnish Government. I have undertaken assessments of national research and innovation systems and of research funding organisations. I have also evaluated research proposals – for example, as panel chair of the ERC Starting Grants programme.”