• Dr. Olga Makarova, Brain City Berlin

    Dr. Olga Makarova | Freie Universität Berlin

Brain City Ambassador Dr. Olga Makarova works as an infection biologist at the Centre for Infection Medicine at the Freie Universiät Berlin. Born and raised in Russia, she came to Brain City Berlin eight years ago - and is still enthusiastic about the research conditions and life in Berlin.

“My decision to move to Berlin was mostly driven by two factors: professional opportunities and geographic location. Having studied host-microbe interactions for my PhD, I wanted to focus on the host immunity part during my first postdoc. At the same time, I wanted to live relatively close to my family in Russia. Despite the common perception, it’s only a 2.5 hours direct flight from Berlin to Moscow,” says Dr. Olga Makarova. The young researcher was lucky: One of the top researchers in innate immunity, Prof. Dr. Jens Rolff, moved his lab from the United Kingdom to Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin) and offered her a postdoc position on an ERC-funded project. “The funny thing was that although I did develop the expertise in innate immunity I originally came for, this interdisciplinary project also gave me the opportunity to work in evolutionary microbiology and antimicrobial resistance,” she recalls. This led Olga Makarova to the next stop in her research career in Berlin. She currently works at  the Centre for Infection Medicine at FU Berlin. Here she joined a large governmental project on antimicrobial resistance led by Prof. Dr. Uwe Rösler before establishing an independent research group of her own. 

“I work in the field of infection medicine, more specifically on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and most recently also on corona viruses. It would not be a stretch to say that this field is booming in Berlin. In addition to groups working on this topic at FU Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Max-Planck-Institut für Infektionsbiologie and Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, there is soon opening a brand new research center devoted exclusively to AMR in veterinary medicine at FU Berlin,”Olga Makarova says excitedly. “There are also regular international meetings and conferences hosted in Berlin. Overall, Berlin is an exciting place to be, if you work in infection biology!”

Berlin is a diverse, affordable and creative modern metropolis with a great quality of life.The best part about living and working in Berlin is the sheer number of options available, both professionally and culturally.

This became especially evident during the coronavirus pandemic, when having a local access to diverse expertise allowed for a fast progress on finding solutions to the crisis. As a result, Olga Makarova shared the special prize at this year’s Berlin University Alliance “Research to Market Challenge” with her team AVIT. The team came up with a platform solution for the development of an antiviral immunotherapy against COVID19.

The Berlin science landscape Olga Makarova considers to be “top notch”. Having worked in many places abroad, one thing that particularly stands out to her is Berlins great research infrastructure. “Also, the working conditions in terms of lab space and availability of instruments are usually very comfortable,” she adds. “And of course, with a great diversity of research institutions comes a great diversity of research expertise, which makes interdisciplinary projects very easy to work on. Moreover, several universities provide excellent education to students, which helps to attract talent.” Having lived and worked in Berlin for quite some time now, Olga Makarova points out another advantage of the Brain City: “It is well connected with all the major national and international research hubs via rail and air. And last but not least: Berlin is a diverse, affordable and creative modern metropolis with a great quality of life.”

And what would Olga Makarova advise young researchers wanting to start a scientific career in Berlin? “Berlin is truly a science metropolis with many opportunities for any career stage,” she says. “Academic exchange programs such as DAAD, Erasmus, EMBO Short-Term Fellowships are all great for getting the taste of what research and life in Berlin are like. Once you are in Berlin, make sure you take advantage of the many research opportunities it presents – go to seminars, colloquia, talk to people at the water cooler or coffee machine – or maybe join your lab mates for an after-work beer! The great thing about Berlin is: You may be just one connection away from an exciting opportunity, so try to be proactive and visible!” 

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