Víctor Pola: A loose linarense in Santiago

Víctor Pola: A loose linarense in Santiago

By Eduardo Kessi C.

Víctor Giovanni Antonio Pola Véliz is a biochemist before studying Biochemistry. He did his undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences of the University of Chile, where he also obtained his Master's degree in Biochemistry. He is currently a PhD candidate of the Doctoral Program in Molecular Biosciences of the Andrés Bello University. In addition, he made a stay as a Student of Magister, with a scholarship from the Vice-Rectory of Academic Affairs of the University of Chile, Magister, under the tutelage of Dr. Michael J. Hyman in the Stony Brook University in New York.

During his undergraduate studies he made time to preside over the Student Sports Center he helped create, of which he declares himself "very happy". In addition, at that same time his fondness for music led him to form a band mainly influenced by the rock of the 60's-70's, in which he played the lead guitar.

With very clear ideas, this young biochemist, born in Linares, is the eldest of four brothers. He recognizes Italian origins and is the grandson of the teacher Víctor Pola Garrido. He studied at the Institute of Linares, an institution in which one of his professors encouraged his interest in science, in particular Chemistry and Biology by making him participate in the "Olympics" and allowing him to connect at that young age with researchers from the University of Talca which helped him to define his vocation early.

According to Víctor, "from my undergraduate degree I decided to work in the academy, because I consider that it has something very beautiful and that is that it manages to perfectly combine two of my great passions: teaching and scientific activity. I quickly graduated from the University of Chile, I advanced to the Master's degree in the same house of studies and I am currently developing my doctoral thesis project at the Andrés Bello University, and in this trajectory I have only reinforced my thinking, the academy cannot conceive the training of scientists who do not manage to transmit and land science to society. I consider scientific activity as a fundamental pillar in my life, it is a fascinating path of constant learning. I have been fortunate to interact from an early age with scientists of all ages and draw on their experiences. While everyone agrees that this life goes through many moments of uncertainty and struggle against frustration, I see these experiences as a challenge of perseverance and personal growth."

When asked about those who have influenced his training as a future scientist until now, his answer is very precise. "Two researchers have been fundamental in my training process. Dr. Katherine Marcelain of the University of Chile was my mentor for years. With her I developed all the scientific skills that allowed me to successfully overcome several stages of my early academic life, actively participating in the planning and execution of experiments, discussion and writing of scientific results. Dr. Marcelain is an excellent person, she always encouraged me to persevere in science despite the difficulties that sometimes occur along the way, and I believe that the experience I gained working alongside her is responsible for my current position as a phD candidate. My second mentor is Dr. Martín Montecino from André Bello University, with whom I meet in a constant learning. Dr. Montecino is an amazing scientist and by his side I have found a solid conceptual foundation in Molecular and Cellular Biology. I have complete peace of mind that under his mentorship I will successfully complete my doctoral project, but more importantly, I will be able to develop the necessary skills to develop in the future as a scientist in this country.

In his brief career, Víctor has ventured into the epigenetic study of various molecular processes that have biomedical projection. "I believe in epigenetics as an interesting niche with enormous potential to understand the control of the expression of functionally related genes (or gene networks). I have applied this area of research to cancer biology, analyzing the impact of the presence of some post-translational histone modifications on genomic instability (which is strongly related to tumor progression and, consequently, to a poor prognosis). Currently, I am studying the participation of epigenetic regulators on the control of the expression of neuroplasticity genes, which are key to the formation and storage of memory in the hippocampus, and whose alteration can lead to intellectual disabilities."

A challenging, attractive and important field for its consequences is the one that Victor has chosen for what he considers his contribution. Under the tutelage of Dr. Brigitte van Zundert and Dr. Martín Montecino, with whom I currently work, we have focused our attention on the epigenetic mechanisms that modify the expression of neuroplasticity genes during a contextual fear learning event. There is a fascinating unresolved question that is how a short-lived environmental stimulus (some sensory experience, e.g.) induces a consolidated memory that can remain throughout life. Epigenetic mechanisms, which include post-translational modifications of histones, emerge as one of the mechanisms par excellence that manage to integrate environmental stimuli and translate them into stable changes in gene expression, and may be important regulators of the memory process.

Regarding a possible incorporation into our Society, he indicates "I am a Biochemist and my purpose will always be to promote research and teaching in the areas of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for the benefit of the development of our country. Despite my short scientific career, I believe that my work is fully aligned with the principles of this Society. On the other hand, I think that interacting with the members of the SBBM will enhance my contact networks, bringing me closer to national and international entities that develop similar activities.

Based on his own life experience, his opinion about the present of scientific activity in our country is clear. "I believe that it is imperative for scientists to guide the transfer of technologies and knowledge from academia and research institutes to the productive sector and communities, causing the necessary transformations that allow full social development promoting the progress and well-being of the country. Chile cannot conceive of the idea of being a developed country without the presence of highly qualified advanced human capital that works according to the needs and the nation. Unfortunately, today science and research occupy a secondary place in national priorities, a clear reflection is the scarce funding and the lack of a clear policy and institutionality. Our country must advance in educating the population and promoting Scientific and Technological valuation in young people and school-age children, using pedagogical tools that allow meaningful learning. In addition, I am aware that the generation of advanced human capital in our country needs to be opened to decentralization. I believe that in order to reverse the educational and development indicators that currently exist in the regions of our country, Chile must enhance access to scientific and technological activities in current and future regional academies."