Adam Khanboubi
Student Success | 5/18/2024

Brains and Brawn: Wrestling Provides a Diversion for Biology Student

By Maaha Rafique

Adam Khanboubi

Adam Khanboubi is on a mission to unlock the mysteries of the brain.

Ever since a book sparked his childhood fascination with the human brain, Adam Khanboubi, a medical and molecular biology major, knew he wanted to study neuroscience. But alongside his academic pursuits, Khanboubi was drawn to the smash and bash world of professional wrestling.

From creating TikTok wrestling videos that garner millions of views to becoming a brand ambassador for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), his enthusiasm for the sport provides a refreshing break from the rigors of scientific study.

"I've done sponsorships with John Cena and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, and I recently did one with The Rock [wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson]. The Rock noticed me,” Khanboubi said. “Science provides a great outlet for stress relief, but I also cherish the balance of engaging in non-science pursuits in my life.”

In high school, navigating the college application process during the COVID-19 pandemic was a “messy process.” But fate led to a job in the Longwood Medical Area, which put him next to Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). Seeing the bustling labs and busy students on campus, Khanboubi said he felt an instant connection.

“Knowing MCPHS was oriented to scientific education specifically, I felt like it was the place I wanted to be,” Khanboubi said.

Now in his third year at MCPHS, Khanboubi aspires to be a neurosurgeon. He will earn his Bachelor of Science in Medical and Molecular Biology at in 2025. He intends to apply to medical schools later this summer.

Khanboubi has amassed a wealth of research experience at renowned institutions like Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, researching cancer, viruses, and neurology.

His journey into research began in high school when he participated in the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE), a two-year summer program for young students hosted by the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Khanboubi said he wanted to conduct neuroscience research but was selected to work on prostate cancer. At first, he was disappointed, but the experience turned out to be pivotal in shaping his understanding of science’s broader power.

“I was very close-minded when I wanted to start research,” Khanboubi said. “I wanted to do neuroscience because that was the only thing I was exposed to. But when I was there, I realized that you don’t just do research to create a presentation or publish a paper — you do it to create an impact.”

As Khanboubi learned more about prostate cancer, he noticed that some of the data sets he was working with lacked data from people of color afflicted by the disease. Initiating dialogues within his team, Khanboubi advocated for diversifying the available information to create a more inclusive research pool.

“I was glad to make that impact of working towards solving racial inequality in science,” Khanboubi said.

As a second-year student, Khanboubi said he had his “most enjoyable research experience” at MGH as an undergraduate neuroscience researcher, shadowing in surgeries and the ICU and delving into brain injuries and stroke recovery. During this time a conversation with a neurosurgeon about career goals inspired him to specialize in spinal surgery.

“My MGH experience woke me up and finally allowed me to identify what career path I want to pursue, which neurosurgery specialty I want to be a part of, what type of research I want to do,” Khanboubi said.

Currently, Khanboubi works as a Protein Sciences Drug Discovery Researcher at biopharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb, which marks his first time working in industry rather than academia. At MCPHS, he also tutors students and serves as the intramural flag football and basketball team captain. And, no matter how busy he gets, Khanboubi always has time for his favorite pastime, wrestling, a hobby that is turning into something bigger.

“I didn’t expect my WWE account to grow so quickly, but people started to love it, and I was able to meet my childhood heroes and engage in experiences that continue to leave me in awe,” Khanboubi said.