Mario De Leo-Winkler is from Mexico City, where he earned his B.S. in Physics, masters in Astronomy, and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He was awarded ECOS-NORD fellowships for research stays at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, Toulouse, France in 2006, 2012 and 2014. He received full scholarships for the Vatican Observatory Summer School in Astrobiology (2005) and the Enrico Fermi School on Astrophysics, Italy (2008). In 2012 he was honored with a medal from the government of Mexico City for his informal education work with justice-involved youth. In 2014 he was awarded a UC MEXUS postdoctoral fellowship to perform public outreach and astrophysics research at the University of California, Riverside.
Mario acted as interim project manager for the NASA MIRO FIELDS Program based at UC Riverside, and has held the position of Director of Public Outreach and Education for the same project since 2015. He is also part of the outreach team of the Center for Astrobiology at UC Riverside and a council member of the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Mario has also been an instructor of undergraduate courses at UC Riverside since 2015 (PHYS005 History of the Universe & HPNG015 Astrophotography).
Since his undergraduate years, Mario has been passionate in finding better ways to communicate science effectively and broadly to the general public. He believes that new methods need to be developed in science communication and education for them to be more inclusive and broadly available. Mario is convinced that effective communication of research is an institutional responsibility, that citizens have a right to be aware of current research supported by tax-paying citizens, and that state-funded institutions owe a debt (that can be repaid through outreach and education) to their surrounding communities. He strongly believes that informed citizens are less likely to fall victims of hoax, they can become allies in scientists’ pursuit for knowledge, and are potential citizen scientists. Mario is a strong advocate of hands-on and sensorial experiences, as well as activities that lead citizens to think critically, and has been a driver of multidisciplinary projects bonding the arts and science.
He founded and managed what became the largest astronomical society in Mexico (Nibiru), has worked with justice involved youth in Mexico and the USA, has developed workshops for the Deaf community in the USA, and has interacted with thousands of under-represented citizens through science-related activities. Outreach and informal education activities directly supervised or created by him have reached over 1.2 million people since 2001.
Mario has ample experience in writing for magazines and newspapers, his most important contributions can be found in the Huffington Post and Muy Interesante magazine. He also wrote and delivered his own astronomy capsules in Mexican radio and television stations. He managed social media for the Institute of Astronomy at the UNAM (2012 – 2014), turning it into the most followed science-related social media outlet in Spanish in the world at the time.