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Undiscovered No Longer: Young Neuroscientist Honored

One of the “500 most powerful Arabs in the world” is a neuroscience Ph.D. student at Rutgers-Newark.

Mohammad M. Herzallah, a doctoral student in Professor Mark Gluck’s lab in the Rutgers Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, was so named in the April issue of Arabian Business World.

The magazine’s accolade is just the latest for Herzallah.  In February 2013 he was selected as one of only 21 TED Fellows worldwide for 2013.  On Feb. 27, as part of that honor, he delivered a talk at the annual conference, “TED2013: The Young.  The Wise. The Undiscovered.”, in Long Beach California.

The accomplishments of Herzallah were previously recognized in spring 2012 when he was awarded the Young Arab Neuroscientist Award, which financed his travel to the November 2012 Society for Neuroscience's annual conference.  The Young Arab Neuroscientist Award recognized Herzallah, a medical doctor as well as a researcher, for his contributions to understanding the neural mechanisms of depression, his work in co-establishing the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative in 2009, and for his “on-the-grounds efforts in building the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Al-Quds University in Palestine.”

Forbes Magazine recently profiled his research into the staggering depression rate in Palestine. Read the article here

Those are impressive credentials, the more so when you realize Herzallah is only in his late 20s.

As part of the Initiative’s efforts to “lay the foundations of neuroscience research in Palestine and make formidable contributions to research and health care in Palestine,” Herzallah and his colleagues have created  international collaborations with Dr. Gluck and his lab at Rutgers, as well as with Dr. Hilal Lashuel at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne  in Switzerland,  and with Dr. Mohammed Milad at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School.

Establishing the lab was a massive undertaking that included fund-raising, buying equipment, finding a site and training medical students. Since launching the lab, Herzallah and his colleagues have developed joint projects with 20 local Palestinian neurologists and psychiatrists,  established research referral and testing programs at mental health clinics in Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin, Jericho, Bethlehem, and East Jerusalem,  and hosted seven neuroscience colloquium talks at Al-Quds University featuring internationally renowned neuroscientists as guest speakers. They even worked with Gluck and Milad to sponsor three Palestinian medical students for six weeks of advanced training at Rutgers University and Harvard University Medical School.

The Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative ’s latest initiative is spearheaded by Herzallah’s wife, Dr. Joman Natsheh, a post-doctoral researcher at the PNI and the Gluck lab. She is leading a team of five other Palestinian female doctors and medical students at Al-Quds University to establish a new Palestinian Women’s Mental Health Initiative, addressing critical needs for better mental health care for Palestinian women, more female Palestinian doctors, and increased research into women’s mental health problems.

After completing his post-doctoral studies, Herzallah’s goal is to apply his skills and knowledge in his homeland, practicing “translational neuroscience,” going from “bench to bedside.” He also plans to mentor young scientists.  “But my love and focus is research, and translating research into practical clinical interventions,” he says.


The Verge [video]: The War Inside: Fighting depression in Palestine (August 2013)