Annie Pardo: there is no country that progresses without knowledge

In the midst of the joy for recognition, he considers that we have little scientific development, so we must strongly promote it because there is no country that progresses without knowledge and without the conditions to innovate.

In her library with full shelves and photographs with the family history, this is how the morning conversation flowed in the house of the 82-year-old scientist, while the sun filtered through the window and a book was waiting on the table: Science and life became reads the title on the cover, which could well define the interview with the emeritus professor, who for more than half a century has dedicated herself to the knowledge of cells along with teaching at the Faculty of Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

She is one of the four scholars who were recognized with the National Award as announced in the Official Gazette of the Federation, in recognition of their contributions to the development of science, technology and innovation.

“Doing research is the way to learn to ask questions. One studies science and, well, many times it gives the impression that everything has already been said, who is going to surpass Einstein, Darwin, Watson and Crick? But the important thing in educating young people is that they learn to ask why of things. And of course, as we know more and more, that opens up new questions.

“I think that now I like the biology degree better than when I studied, because I have so many questions, it will take me years to understand some of the phenomena that are currently being studied,” he speaks with emotion when he sees how his students have been trained and younger colleagues, “now we learn from them.

At this point in my life, I can rest assured that there are generations ahead that are going to continue, have learned and have their own impulses.”

The scientist highlights the importance of disseminating what science is and its contributions.
In his own biography of science and life, a special chapter on his convictions on the left is added.

“I must not only have learned biology and contribute knowledge at UNAM, but I must also learn to fly, paint trucks, and participate in demonstrations,” says the graduate of the Faculty of Sciences, where she affirms that she acquired social and political awareness, because it was a highly politicized college.

A difficult moment in her career, still very young, were the consequences of getting involved in the student movement in 1968. The biologist participated in the Coalition of Teachers of Secondary and Higher Education as a representative of biological sciences, at the end of the conflict, when “they repressed the movement”, they took away his place to teach and the scholarship at the National Polytechnic Institute, almost to finish his postgraduate degree in biochemistry.

“Dismissed by superior orders” was what they recorded at the time of their dismissal. “I was left with the postgraduate course suspended and without a job.”

Then he returned to UNAM, but his credits were not recognized, “I had to start from scratch,” dear reader, do his master’s degree and doctorate again from scratch, “so that doing postgraduate studies took me 10 years or more.”

It was the place where he developed his career, “that somehow marked my line of research”, because at his alma mater was the meeting with Ruy Pérez Tamayo, a doctor and science popularizer, who was his thesis tutor and started it in experimental pathology studies, as well as the study of fibrosis.

“They are serendipitous things,” he reflects, because who knows what the course of continuing at the Poli would have been. “There are circumstances in life that confront one with new challenges, there is nothing more to learn from them.

“I had always liked the part of biology that had more to do with biomedical research than with natural resources. Cellular, molecular, and biochemical biology were always closer to my topics of interest”, he narrates about this period of his training that marked the rest of his life.

Almost 65 years after starting her studies, she recognizes that as a female scientist there are more obstacles to overcome than a male colleague.

There were more women than men in the biology major, but most dropped out from the first year.

Collaboration with INER
In the laboratory, one of the fundamental topics of Dr. Annie Pardo is fibrosing lung diseases, that is, those that cause inflammation and scars in this organ that allows us to breathe.

There are many that exist, such as COPD, those caused by being exposed to silicon or asbestos, and even those produced by pigeon antigens, such as feathers and excrement.

Dr. Pardo’s interest in culturing cells from fibrotic lesions led her to stay in St. Louis, Missouri. Upon her return, already integrated into the Faculty of Sciences, she sought out those who worked with human disease to have biopsy samples to cultivate in the laboratory.

Thus, for more than 35 years it has maintained a collaboration with the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER), with research, experimental models and tissue culture. A decade ago the Ciencias-INER biopathology unit was founded. They learn mutually and in a multidisciplinary way.

The covid pandemic was a time when fibrosis appeared among the sick.

At that time of the peak of the crisis, the university practically closed its facilities, without being able to enter the laboratory, and INER devoted itself entirely to patient care.

The research has stopped, but now they are learning about how to deal with the sequelae, “since we study fibrosis, that is, the end result of many interstitial lung diseases, we are interested in understanding if this is a long-term cause of fibrosis.”

The scientist, who doubtfully epitomizes her octogenarian age, speaks with gusto for her knowledge, to which she has devoted most of her life.

Their curiosity to satisfy the questions did not make them isolated in a laboratory, but alongside the training of numerous generations that have passed through the Faculty of Sciences.

“Why did you decide to study biology?”, he is asked and he answers: “In our education in Mexico one has to make decisions too early.”

In her case, she entered university at the age of 16, forced to choose, she couldn’t study architecture or design because she knew her limitations.

“I liked philosophy or medicine. I had good biology teachers in high school, that is what finally defines you”.

The vocation for teaching began as well as university education. “I started teaching since I was in college, I taught a laboratory at Prepa 2.

I have taught middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate school. I only need primary school. But I have covered the different levels and all my life I have taught, always, always.

I work in a college and, that has been a great battle that has been won, before they were dedicated only to teaching, research was done in institutes.

It is essential from the early years that students are already involved in research and that teachers are enthusiastic about it”, he observes.

A WhatsApp message from a friend was the way she found out that she had been recognized with the National Science Award.

I had already been waiting for several months, since the call closed since last year.