Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: Biological Sciences Scientists Obtain a Scholarship for Postdoctoral Training in the United States

On June 15, the American foundation Pew Charitable Trusts announced the results of its Pew Latin American Fellows Program in Biomedical Sciences for the class of 2021.

The US organization Pew Charitable Trusts appointed ten Latin American scientists from the field of biomedical sciences to carry out their postdoctoral training within the Pew Latin American Fellows Program. Of the ten selected researchers, three are Chilean, and two of them graduated from the Doctoral Program in Biological Sciences, mentioning Cellular and Molecular Biology: Drs Sergio Hidalgo and Carlos Rivera.

The call for this fund is very important for the development of science since it finances research projects in the United States and Latin America. Previous years it was awarded by researchers who later became professors at the Faculty (Verónica Eisner, María Estela Andrés, Juan Larraín and Luis Larrondo). It was also awarded by the biochemist, María Gabriela Morales.

Notably, the 2021 class fellows are joining Pew at a critical time, where in the words of Eva Nogales, president of the Pew Latin American Fellows National Advisory Committee, “Laboratories face new obstacles in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 19 “.

Development of biomedical research in Latin America
Under the program, scholarships are awarded to Latin American scientists to study in the United States, under the supervision of mentors who promote the use of bold approaches in biomedical research to improve human health. Additionally, fellows who choose to return to Latin America to start their own research laboratories will receive additional funding from Pew to help develop a biomedical research community in the region.

For Dr. Sergio Hidalgo Sotelo, this recognition is an honor, but also an encouragement to continue the academic path: “I feel extremely honored to have been one of the 10 selected by Pew, along with my compatriots Carlos and Emerson, conduct our postdoctoral research in the United States. Since my work with Dr. Jorge Campusano at the Catholic University, and Dr. James Hodge, at the University of Bristol, my main research focus has been to understand the neural and molecular mechanisms that govern complex behaviors. Now in Dr. Joanna Chiu’s lab at the University of California, Davis, my main objective is to investigate the neural circuits that govern seasonal adaptations; While we know in great detail the circadian mechanisms we use to adapt to the cycles of light and dark, our understanding of how we respond to these long-term changes is limited. “

Fellows who choose to return to Latin America to start their own research laboratories will receive additional funding from Pew to help develop a biomedical research community in the region.

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For his part, Dr. Carlos Rivera in personal terms, this application represented a great challenge that allowed him to verify his learning process, given the style and particularly, the application formats that, in his own words, are very different from those of previous experiences in postgraduate scholarships in Chile: “This is a great opportunity for us, considering the evident crisis that exists regarding the insertion of advanced human capital in our country, an issue that, although it was initially raised by those awarded Chile scholarships, It is evident that it also affects the scholarship holders of national programs, inevitably generating competition for the few available places in the academy. In this sense, this recognition not only means an opportunity to support our continuity and development in our work as researchers, but also a push to rethink the advanced human capital policy, by verifying the level of research training that Chilean universities are delivering. ”.

Dr. Rivera’s line of research is linked to the study of enzymes: these molecular motors that accelerate chemical reactions that occur in biological systems and make life possible, not only at the speed level but also at the level of spontaneous return (and therefore possible) that which, without its action, could not occur. “The context in which I am most motivated to study enzymes is in the regulation of gene expression, because although all our cells have the same set of genes, our neurons are very different from skin cells, and this is possible partly thanks to the mechanisms that regulate how our genes are expressed ”, he points out.

“This recognition not only means an opportunity to support our continuity and development in our work as researchers, but also a push to rethink advanced human capital policy, by verifying the level of research training that Chilean universities are delivering” – Carlos Rivera, graduated from the Doctoral Program in Biological Sciences, major in Cellular and Molecular Biology.

Science challenges during the pandemic
Both researchers agree that the pandemic has imposed several challenges on science: from the communication and publication of scientific discoveries, to how we communicate the tasks of science to society.

How can we quickly discuss results and take appropriate action on health contingency issues if the process of publishing a scientific article takes months? It is a question that Dr. Sergio Hidalgo delves into during this interview, and to which he answers: “We have excellent scientists, such as Dr. Kalergis and his team at the Faculty, actively working to combat the pandemic through research. Other scientists working day and night and on the front lines, in diagnostic laboratories throughout the country. However, many other researchers work on completely different issues: how can you contribute? I believe that it is essential that scientific work and knowledge are not exclusive with society, it is extremely important that those of us who do science are open,

To which Dr. Rivera adds: “The advancement of scientific knowledge is highly segregated from society worldwide, and Chile is no exception. In fact, in the context of the pandemic, our country has reflected that crisis management requires including experts as protagonists in decision-making, and the absence of this understanding has led, for example, the government to make mistakes with high consequences for the population. In addition, this segregation between science and society, indirectly prevents the population from pressuring the authorities to include and prioritize the scientific vision in health decision processes (…) We would probably be in a better scenario if there was more space for the world’s people of science, we began to participate and influence more in political decisions ”.

“It is essential that scientific work and knowledge are not exclusive with society, it is extremely important that those of us who do science are open, clear and capable of translating their results and advances” – Sergio Hidalgo, graduate of the Biological Sciences PhD Program mention in Cellular and Molecular Biology.


Undergraduate and graduate studies at the FCB
Consulted by their passage in the Faculty of Biological Sciences, the researchers had time to dedicate this distinction with enough humility and sincerity to future generations.

Dr. Sergio Hidalgo: “For me, doing my undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the Faculty of Biological Sciences was an invaluable opportunity and I feel fortunate to have shared with excellent scientists throughout my training: from my colleagues, professors, to all the administrative, cleaning, security and maintenance personnel that make the Faculty continue to function without stopping. For this reason, I tell our undergraduate and graduate students to enjoy and take advantage of all the opportunities: the FCB has thousands of instances to interact with scientists from all over the world, and its professors are internationally recognized, which makes it an excellent place to train as a scientist and scientist ”, she concludes.

Dr. Carlos Rivera, says that he decided on the Doctorate of Biological Sciences UCboth because of his undeniable quality of training at an academic level and because the laboratory in which he wanted to specialize was there, directed by a brilliant, rigorous and transparent scientist; and more than that, an academic who promotes horizontal and honest treatment with her students, Dr. María Estela Andrés, “who allowed me to acquire a training with just freedom to generate independence at the doctoral level, for which I am very grateful (…) Honestly, I think I am at a premature level to advise future scientists regarding an academic career, but I would love to tell you to take care of your mental health as you are going to face challenges where your stress and anxiety levels will increase a lot, Most of us who enter a scientific program have the motivation to observe and discover new aspects of nature, which in my opinion is a noble and humble motivation that we must remember every time we face challenging situations, “he says. However,” the motivation to study and contribute to scientific knowledge is stronger, for something we continue investigating right? From another angle, no less important, I invite you to raise your voice so that in the near future in our country the work of researchers is recognized as it should be, with guarantees, labor rights and strategic planning that includes those who were trained as scientists in areas that allow us to move towards a better country ”, he concludes. which in my opinion is a noble and humble motivation that we must remember every time we face challenging situations “, he points out. However,” the motivation to study and contribute to scientific knowledge is stronger, for something we continue investigating, right? From another angle, no less important, I invite you to raise your voice so that in the near future in our country the work of researchers is recognized as it should be, with guarantees, labor rights and strategic planning that includes those who were trained as scientists in areas that allow us to move towards a better country ”, he concludes. which in my opinion is a noble and humble motivation that we must remember every time we face challenging situations “, he points out. However,” the motivation to study and contribute to scientific knowledge is stronger, for something we continue investigating, right? From another angle, no less important, I invite you to raise your voice so that in the near future in our country the work of researchers is recognized as it should be, with guarantees, labor rights and strategic planning that includes those who were trained as scientists in areas that allow us to move towards a better country ”, he concludes.

“I invite you to raise your voice so that in the near future in our country the work of researchers is recognized as it should be, with guarantees, labor rights and strategic planning that includes those who were trained as scientists in areas that allow us to advance towards a better country ”- Carlos Rivera, Dr. in Biological Sciences.

It should be noted that the ten postdoctoral training fellows from seven Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru) will receive funding for two years to carry out their research in laboratories in the United States, where they will work under the mentorship of prominent biomedical scientists, including members of the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences programs and the Pew-Stewart Scholars Program for Cancer Research ) .

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