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El Mundo Boston 2018.

HECTOR DE JESÚS-CORTÉS 

Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT 

Age: 30

Heritage: Puerto Rican

 

Hector was born and raised in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. His passion is to understand the brain at different levels to ultimately discover treatments for psychiatric and neurologic disorders. 

 

Héctor earned a bachelor’s in science at the University of Puerto Rico, where he specialized in biochemistry and molecular biology. He applied that knowledge to the field of neuroscience related Alzheimer’s disease. He also developed an interest in science communication and outreach, therefore he became a contributor to a podcast and a needle exchange program in San Juan, PR. Additionally, he received a fellowship to spend a summer at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where he focused on understanding the effects of a chemotherapy drug (Cisplatin) in brain cells. Ultimately, all his work as an undergraduate student allowed him to win prestigious awards including Best Undergraduate Researcher in Biology and a National Institute of Health scholarship along with three journal articles. 

 

Hector decided to do his PhD in Neuroscience at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX. Here he focused on developing a small molecule that was capable of protecting brain cells. During that time Hector published 11 more articles and graduated first in his class (3.5yrs compared to national average of >5yrs). Currently, he is a postdoctoral fellow at the Brain and Cognitive departament at MIT where he focuses on understanding how brain cells communicate and whether he can make memories stronger using drugs or digital therapeutics. 

 

While at MIT, Hector has been elected as the first latino President of the Postdoctoral Association, been the first Sagrado Fellow at Universidad Sagrado Corazón in Puerto Rico and is the co-director of a summer pre-college program for latinos. During this time, he was also accepted into the Conexión program that is dedicated to further Boston latinos’ leadership skills and connect them with mentors that can guide them. 

 

Hector keeps pushing science communication and teaching by volunteering at the East Boston Neighborhood center as a tutor, the MOSTEC program at MIT and keeps mentoring students in the laboratory. He also was very involved in the recovery efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico. He met with government officials to help them with the Department of Education recovery and later on co-lead an initiative at MIT that was able to fundraise close to $15,000 in one night (Fearless Puerto Rico party). 

 

Being a latino has helped Héctor become resilient and to have grit, since his goal is to inspire the next generation of latino scientists and increase opportunities for higher education to underrepresented minorities. As a scientist, his next goal is to open his own laboratory as a principal investigator and guide a group of researchers to discover new treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders.