Dr. Ignacio Cancino, a 2015 IBRO Return Home Fellow, recently published an article in Cell Reports that was partially funded by our fellowship. The article, The Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase Receptor Delta Regulates Developmental Neurogenesis, is open access and can be accessed here. We thought now would be a great time to catch up with Ignacio for a quick Q&A. 

Dr. Cancino was working at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, when he was awarded the IBRO Return Home Fellowship to set up a lab at the Universidad Mayor in Santiago in his home country of Chile. He started his own group in March 2017 at the Center for Integrative Biology at Universidad Mayor.


Why did you first become interested in neuroscience?

I don’t have a particular or personal reason linked to my fascination with neuroscience but I remember that when I was in undergrad school, I was always curious about how the brain works. I wondered about how our brain is capable to control basic body functions like eating, sleeping or breathing, and more sophisticated functions like algebra or calculus. Also, why we are so different from our closest relatives, the non-human primates, and how we can do so many complex behaviors.


What research are you doing now and where? 

I started my own group in March 2017 at the Center for Integrative Biology at Universidad Mayor, Chile. My group is [working to] understand how genes associated to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, control how the brain develops and also how environmental factors can influence our nervous system development.


How did you find out about IBRO?

I participated in an IBRO Neuroscience school in 2006, and then kept following this organization. I also had colleagues who got funded by IBRO.


How did IBRO help you in your career?

It gave me a lot of visibility. I think getting awarded the IBRO Return Home Fellowship was very important for my career because it made me more attractive for hiring committees. It is hard to get an academic position because there are few of them and too many applicants. Having this fellowship improved my chances and it also helped me start my lab. I purchased my first set of micropipettes and lab reagents with this fellowship.


What do you view as the main challenges and opportunities for Chilean/Latin American researchers in the field of neuroscience right now?

I think our main challenge is to be competitive. Working in neuroscience is hard because it is one of the most competitive fields in the biological sciences. However, working from Chile is even harder because funding is very limited and doing neuroscience can be extremely expensive.


Roughly, how many hours a week do you spend working in your lab? 

Between 45 to 50 hours a week.


And how much time do you spend on the administrative side of running a lab?

Probably one third of my time.


That’s a large portion of your time and important for aspiring PIs to know. What are your research plans for the future?

My lab already started to transit from mice models to human models like human iPSCs and brain organoids. In the near future, I would like to do more translational neuroscience. I would love to link the basic science that we do in my lab with patients with neurodevelopmental disorders.


IBRO thanks Dr. Cancino for taking time to update us on his work. We are delighted to have been able to support him in establishing his lab and career back in his home country.

Applications for the 2021 IBRO Return Home Fellowships will open in August 2020. Click here to find out more about the Fellowships.