Molecular Biologist and Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California San Francisco
Executive Director Clubes de Ciencia Bolivia
Breakthrough research on neuron reprogramming in 2015
Clubes de Ciencia Bolivia received 2016 Youth Peace Prize from Government of Santa Cruz Bolivia
2015 Person of the Year Award from El Deber (Bolivian newspaper)
Franz Tamayo Medal –Senate of the Plurinational State of Bolivia
Youth Peace Prize Government of Santa Cruz, Bolivia (in collaboration with UNESCO)
Distinction for Intellectual Merit by the government of Beni, Bolivia
Medal for the Municipal Merit by the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
Mission Driven Alumni Outreach grant by the US Department of State
By Alejandro Ramirez
One of the old tenants of neuroscience was that neurons — that the brain —- couldn’t change. Every textbook maintained this notion for years.
Then, Mohammed Mostajo-Radji rewrote the books.
While a graduate student in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University, he made a breakthrough discovery: neurons can actually be pushed and changed and their immediate circuits can be rewired.
“It really opens a new avenue for brain repair,” said the 28-year-old molecular biologist. “Now that we know we can change neurons and change circuitry, how much can we actually push them? Can we think about neuron reprogramming maybe as a therapy for neurodevelopmental disorders?”
The finding was the basis of his PhD thesis, which he received in 2016. Shortly after earning his degree, he became a Postdoctoral Fellow at University of California San Francisco, continuing his studies on the human brain at the molecular level.
Mostajo-Radji’s success is also significant because his home country of Bolivia ranks poorly when it comes to science and innovation; he was the first Bolivian to receive a PhD from a Harvard science program.
He’s since developed Clubes de Ciencias Bolivia, a program that brings Harvard scientists to Bolivia and Bolivian students to Harvard. It was inspired by similar programs his colleagues created for Mexico and Colombia
Since its inception, the Bolivian chapter has brought together 16 instructors and 400 students.
“People [in Bolivia] are starting to see science as a career, and that’s important,” said Mostajo-Radji.
In the future, Mostajo-Radji hopes to be a faculty member running research in Boston. The city has plenty of opportunities—a strong academic presence in biology, a growing biotech industry, and a closer proximity to Europe, which helps facilitate international research.
“Boston is the epicenter of scientific knowledge, it might be my first choice if I had the opportunity to go back,” he said. “It’s definitely my number one goal to go back to that environment.”