John C. O'Leary III, PhD

Jazz pianist, neuroscientist, TEDx speaker, Alzheimer's advocate, Latino arts and culture advocate

Bio

John is a Mexican American jazz pianist and neuroscientist . He’s the pianist for the highly acclaimed trio La Lucha in the Tampa Bay area.   

John has had a winding path. He was born in the Yucatan Peninsula where he started piano lessons at age three and played classical piano until the age of 12.  Once in the US, he picked up the tuba in the concert band and continued to develop his musicianship through high school. As a tuba player, he was selected to perform in the All-State Concert Band, and attained superior ratings in state level solo performances. As a pianist, he played in the Zephyrhills jazz band and went with the band to the State Band competition. In the 2002 Lakeside Jazz Festival John was awarded best piano soloist. 

John attended the University of South Florida where he studied tuba, jazz piano, and biochemistry. He graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. in Jazz Piano Performance, a minor in Tuba Performance, and an Honors Thesis in Biochemistry. John toured Italy and France with the USF Big Band and Jazztet combo, playing in the 2007 Umbria Jazz Festival and Juan Les Pins Jazz Festival. As a member of these bands he has played with jazz greats Conrad Herwig, Randy Brecker, Adam Nussbaum, LaRue Nickelson, Steve Davis, Jack Wilkins, Tom Brantley, and Wycliffe Gordon. 

As a scientist, John completed his Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of South Florida, where he is the recipient of the Ruth L. Kirschstein predoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke. John’s dissertation research examines a group of proteins termed “chaperones” and their effects on the development of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and stress-related psychiatric diseases. 

The depression component of his research was highlighted by the post-publication peer-reviewing agency Faculty of 1000, which places the article in the top 2% of all published articles in the biological and medical sciences. 

John has been an invited speaker at the Society for Neuroscience, Midwestern Stress Response, and American Chemical Society conferences.