Text & Photography: NWO; text Nienke Beintema, photography Rafaël Philippen
Anna Akhmanova studies how structures in living cells build themselves using of individual building blocks. This knowledge can help us to develop better medicines. ‘Ultimately we want to be able to guide this self-building process,’ says the Professor of Cellular Dynamics at Utrecht University. Akhmanova receives a Spinoza Prize worth 2.5 million euros for her work.
You’re originally Russian. How did you end up in the Netherlands?
‘I graduated as a molecular biologist from Moscow State University in 1989. That was a period of enormous change in Russia. The Soviet Union was falling apart and we ended up in a financial crisis. Funding for science came to a standstill. Many scientists of my generation went abroad during that time. I had a look around as well. I ended up in Twente on a scientific exchange programme. From there I looked for a PhD position. There were various options. I eventually chose Nijmegen.’
How did you like it there?
‘It was very pleasant there. It was a nice lab with a good atmosphere. I soon began to speak Dutch with my colleagues in the lab. They gave me great support there, and I learned a lot. After that I stayed in the Netherlands, because I saw sufficient opportunity to develop myself here. That was the most important criterion for me. And the research climate was appealing. I really consider myself to be a Dutch scientist now.’