Mario originally studied biology at university and has been always been involved in activities to help underprivileged youth. Before he was a teacher professionally, he worked in remedial education courses for adults in neighbourhood associations, and formed youth groups for high school students. During his final studies he spent time doing fieldwork in rural areas and, with a friend, set up an NGO to found a school in order to promote sustainable social development for a rural community.
Later, Mario moved to Santiago and found work in a Technical Professional School, where 85% of the students were socially vulnerable or from dysfunctional families. Others were from areas with high crime rates or were victims of physical/mental abuse. The challenge was much greater. However, Mario has paved the way in using computers and science to get these students motivated. In 2014, the class won a competition for innovative activities in the classroom with their project of a Solar Water Heater to provide hot water to the locker rooms of the school. Students have been invited on numerous occasions to the “I want to be a scientist” program of Radio Universidad de Chile, where they interview a scientist each week. Mario was hired in 2016 by the Youth Science Foundation to tutor at five scientific academies created in the commune of Quilicura.
With the prize funds, Mario would like to build a school in southern Chile, to develop its communities, and found an organization that creates outreach and scientific literacy programs.