16 November 2023 – In 2006, after ten years in Italy, Kristian Vlahovicek, a professor of bioinformatics, returned to Croatia to set up his computational biology group at the University of Zagreb. Vlahovicek, who says his first scientific love was crystallography, realized the importance of bioinformatics for the life sciences during his undergraduate studies and quickly moved to focus his research on computational biology methods. Now, in collaboration with experimental biologists, his work focuses on analysing genome datasets.
Instrumental to getting established in Zagreb, Vlahovicek says, was an EMBO Installation Grant. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance EMBO has had for my career,” he says. Crucially, the grant enabled him to connect with scientists at a similar career stage, working at the forefront of international and European science, and opened opportunities for collaboration. “International collaborations are the cornerstone of my research,” he says, noting that some of his most productive and closest collaborations started from this time.
“I fear we haven’t made the best of the possibilities offered by EU funds, making us less productive,” Vlahovicek notes. He is, however, seeing change and a concerted effort of the government to become more agile. As an EMBO grantee he has been involved in discussions on best practices. Especially since Croatia is a member of the Erasmus exchange programme, more international students are also coming to the country, but Vlahovicek would love to see more. “Come for the food, the climate and the people!” he says.