Ricardo in his Own Words
I was born in the city of Cali in Colombia and I came to the US when I was 17. My father is a professional eccentric, a former director of the local symphony orchestra and an itinerant photographer. My mother is a feminist politician, an ardent SCUBA diver and a perpetual if somewhat unsuccessful candidate for elected office. I grew up in Cali, which has some of the world’s largest spiders and cockroaches. My first experience in biology was using my father’s stereo to amplify the stretch receptor potentials from the thigh muscle of a cockroach. The stereo was never the same again.
I graduated at the top of my class in high school. I was a Colombian national champion in the long jump and represented Colombia at the Pan-American and Junior World Championships. I am a soccer fanatic. I studied at Brown University and I graduated with Honors. At Brown I wrote and photographed for the Brown Daily Herald and worked in the animal care facility where I developed a highly antagonistic relationship with a colony of macaque monkeys. I also studied neuroscience and computer science and worked in a laboratory characterizing regenerating axons. At various points during my time at Brown, I worked as an orderly at a Colombian hospital, an intern at the World Health Organization and a programmer for a cactus growing company. One summer, I walked from Cusco to Machu Pichu along the Inca trail with my mother.
I was a Neuroscience graduate student at Stanford with Rich Lewis and I used my own blood cells to do experiments. I wrote software to control our patch clamp system and I developed a calcium clamp to study how oscillations affect gene expression.
I pioneered the use of the foam mattress to take naps in between experiments. I taught biology to Latino students in East San Jose and I was one of the teaching assistants for the medical school neurobiology class. I once transported two human brains across the Stanford campus on the back of my bicycle. For two summers I was a teaching assistant for the imaging course at Cold Spring Harbor. While I was there, I was attacked by a flock of geese.
I obtained my Ph.D. from Stanford in 1997, which has made me the second most famous person in my family after my cousin who is a professional horse trainer. I have a big family.
I married Asha Nigh in 1999 in a ceremony that involved riding into a 16th century Spanish fort on a white stallion surrounded by bats. Asha arrived on a leaky canoe full of flowers rowed by two muscular bridesmaids. We danced a baroque minuet to the sounds of my aunts playing antique recorders into hurricane force winds.
Asha and I have two sons. One is called Max Balam after the jaguar god of the Mayas and my favorite scientist, Max Perutz. The other one is called Rio Santiago after Santiago Ramon y Cajal. We are grooming Max to be the center forward of the Colombian national soccer team and a world-class ukulele player. Rio might have a career in Sumo wrestling and professional Lego building.
I was a postdoctoral fellow with Mike Greenberg at Harvard. Mike and I once had a discussion on the existence of God on a plane about to make an emergency landing in Denver. In Boston I learned molecular biology, biochemistry and marathon running. I ran the Boston marathon and finished in three hours and seven minutes, two minutes ahead of a fifty five year old man who was pushing his son in a wheelchair.
Since 2005, I have been a Professor at Stanford Medical School where I spend a lot of time running down the hallway and fixing stuff. My lab studies autism and calcium signaling. I hope to one day provide treatments for autism and other neurodevelopmental diseases. I have been fortunate to be awarded several awards, including the SFN Young Investigator Award and an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, that have made my mother very happy. In 2012, I started moonlighting as Senior Director of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington, which means I have the somewhat unusual privilege of collaborating with myself. One day I will go back to Colombia to establish a research and education foundation.
HEIGHT: Short (but ruggedly good looking)
AGE: Do we need to get into this?
FAVORITE SUPERHERO: Bolt
B.Sc. Brown University
Ph.D. Stanford University
Postdoc: Harvard Medical School
Global Head of Neuroscience, Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research
Associate Professor of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine
HONORS AND AWARDS
National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award
Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award
Axelrod Lecturer Society for Neuroscience
Stanford University Faculty Fellow
Burroughs Wellcome Career Award in Biomedical Sciences
McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Award
Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow
American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellow
Ricardo's Biosketch 2013.pdf
Ricardo's Full CV 2013.pdf
Dolmetsch Musical Instruments (those crazy aunts)
My talented dad (buy his art)