Jon Iker Etchegaray Langley, Class of 2004

After graduating from the American School, Jon Iker Etchegaray studied biology at Boston University. He obtained scholarships totaling up to $29,000 a year. He finished his undergraduate degree in 2008 and continued to a combined masters/doctorate program in neurobiology. He is presently a candidate for his Ph.D., meaning his proposed research has been approved. Jon Iker works under Dr. Kim McCall doing research that looks into the degenerative processes that occur in the brain caused by Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. His work as primary researcher has appeared in publications such as Development published by The Company of Biologists.

The American School provided me with the best high school education possible being that it is precisely there where I learned how to analyze, think critically and manage conflictive situation in a positive manner.
– Jon Iker Etchegaray Langley

Recently Jon Iker attended the Global Young Scientists Summit 2014 ( in Singapore. The summit was an invitation-only event and was attended by 350 young scientists from prestigious universities around the world. Invited institutions had to select two to three of their top researchers to attend the summit. Attendees included researchers from U.S., Germany, Britain, France, Israel, China, Australia, Japan, and various other universities from Asia Pacific. Boston University was among the U.S. universities invited. They participated with two representatives, one of which was Jon Iker Etchegaray Langley. Jon was the only Latin American present at the convention and had the opportunity of meeting Singapore’s prime minister who requested to meet with BU scientists personally.

Jon stated that the American School provided him with a well rounded education. “In general the teachers were very good and the academic programs were very complete. Class sizes allowed for constant personalized interaction with each of my teachers,” Jon went on to say “The American School provided me with the best high school education possible being that it is precisely there where I learned how to analyze, think critically and manage conflictive situations in a positive manner.”

Luciano DiTacchio, Class of 1994

Have you ever woken up before your alarm goes off? Biologist Satchidananda Panda and his associate, American School of Puerto Vallarta graduate Luciano DiTacchio, have discovered the gene responsible for this. DiTacchio is part of a research team at Salk Institute for Biological Studies that recently discovered a gene that is responsible for “starting up” our biological clock every morning we wake up. Similar to how a key ignites a car, this gene does to our mind and body. The gene is a molecule by the name of JARID and is responsible for igniting the “period,” a basic component of our biological clock in every person.

Luciano DiTacchio grew up in Puerto Vallarta and is a graduate of the American School. He then enrolled in his studies at The University of Texas majoring in Molecular Biology, specializing in the Circadian System. Currently he forms part of a research team at Panda Laboratories as a postdoctoral researcher.

"Period" Cells- Salk Institute

“Period” Cells- Salk Institute

According to the Salk Institute the biological clock increases our metabolism at the early hours of the day initiating important physiological functions that tell our body it is time to start living. Further exploration of this gene may lead to discoveries on insomnia, aging and chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes. Eventually this could open the way for new therapies for these diseases. The recent discovery has been published in the scientific journal Science.

It is always great news when there is a major scientific breakthrough such as the one made by Dr. Panda and his research team. But it is extra special when it is one of our own, a graduate of the American School of Puerto Vallarta. Luciano’s accomplishments are a testament to the entire country that there are avenues right here in Puerto Vallarta that can set our children on the right path that make it possible to reach our dreams and goals from right here at home.

Adapted from an article by Luis Dominguez (

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