June 27, 2024

Ignacio Toledo, an astronomy professional from Chile, recently led a masterclass with Aspire Leaders Program participants during Module 2. Throughout his work and studies, Toledo found his passions and the most fulfilling path for him to be both happy and successful.

Early Career and Education

Toledo’s passion for astronomy began in high school, but he faced challenges in pursuing formal education in the field as it did not exist during this time in Chile. Initially, he studied civil engineering and even spent time studying to become a Catholic priest. However, when a bachelor’s degree program in astronomy opened up at his university, Toledo seized the opportunity to follow his true interests.

Professional Journey

Thirteen years ago, Toledo joined Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) as a data analyst. Unlike many in his field, he focuses on the operational aspects of astronomy rather than just research. His responsibilities include scheduling subsystems, optimization efforts, collaborating with engineers, and leading data science initiatives within the observatory. He finds fulfillment in collaborative work, preferring to contribute through teamwork rather than seeking individual accolades as a researcher.

Role at Aspire

Toledo’s involvement with Aspire Institute began through a mutual connection with Tom Brown, the Technology Officer at Aspire Institute. Once Toledo heard more about the work that Aspire does, he was very excited to volunteer his time. He prepared a masterclass for Aspire Leaders Program participants, discovering that students were more interested in discussing the nature and limitations of science than just the scientific outcomes.

“I realized that students from diverse backgrounds wanted to talk about science in a broader context,” he shared. “This insight has helped me adjust my future classes to strike a balance between scientific content and broader discussions about science.”

Encouraging Diverse Contributions

Toledo believes that scientific endeavors require diverse contributions. He emphasized the importance of leveraging unique skills rather than solely striving for individual recognition or academic milestones.

“There is space for everyone interested in contributing to science,” he said. “It’s not just about obtaining advanced degrees or Nobel Prizes. It’s about using your unique skills to make a difference.”

He also highlighted the importance of educational opportunities and acknowledged the disparities in access, sharing his experience growing up in Chile where economic factors influenced educational access.

Cultural Awareness and Communication

Working at ALMA involves collaboration with individuals from various regions, emphasizing the need to understand different working styles and learning approaches within a culturally diverse environment. Toledo stressed the importance of open communication channels to bridge potential misunderstandings due to language barriers or cultural differences.

“I’ve learned that open communication is key to overcoming cultural and language barriers,” he said. “It’s important to be aware of different working styles and to foster an environment of mutual understanding.”

Mentorship and Community Engagement

His passion for mentorship shines through his interactions with the Aspire Leaders Program alumni and the greater community. He shared his experiences dealing with depression during his university years, crediting mentors, faculty members, and peers for their support during challenging times.

“Mentorship and support networks played a crucial role in my journey,” he explained. “I want to provide the same support to others who may be facing similar challenges.”

Personal Insights and Advice

His career advice stems from his own experiences of perseverance and resilience. He emphasized the importance of showing interest and making efforts toward pursuing passions, regardless of geographical constraints.

“Take full advantage of educational opportunities,” he advised. “Leverage online resources and networks to overcome challenges and pursue your passions.”

Future Aspirations

Looking ahead, Toledo plans to continue his work in education and outreach. He values the opportunity to give back and make a positive impact through his work with Aspire and beyond.

“The most rewarding part is knowing that I can inspire others and contribute to their educational journeys,” he said. “I look forward to continuing this work and making a difference in the lives of young people.”

Toledo’s journey from an aspiring astronomer to a professional at ALMA and an inspiring mentor and educator at Aspire Institute showcases the power of perseverance, collaboration, and the pursuit of passion. Through his story and showing his passion, he hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams and find the support network to help discover the path that will lead to success, excitement, and happiness.


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