District 5 supervisor candidate Bilal Mahmood promoted himself as a “neuroscientist” in early campaign materials, but after actual neuroscientists questioned this, Mahmood's campaign scrubbed the claim off their website and advertising.

Recently announced District 5 supervisor candidate Bilal Mahmood brings what appears to be an incredibly impressive resume. His website campaign biography says — or previously did say — that Mahmood “is a trained neuroscientist from Stanford, former policy analyst in the Obama Administration, and founder of both startups and philanthropic organizations in San Francisco.” The claimed credential that Mahmood was a “neuroscientist” also appeared in several local media reports.

Screenshot: BilalMahmood.com via Archive.org, archived February 25, 2024 (Emphasis added by SFNews)


But as seen below, the reference to Mahmood being a neuroscientist no longer appears on his campaign website bio. This deletion comes after a March 1 letter to Mahmood from eight neuroscientists questioning that claim, and seeking “clarity regarding your training and credentials as a neuroscientist.”

Screenshot: BilalMahmood.com (Emphasis added by SFNews)


“We found it exciting that a neuroscientist was running for office,” the letter from the neuroscientists says. “However, upon looking into this claim, we could find little evidence to support it.”


But boy does this “neuroscientist” claim feature prominently in ads Mahmood was running in January and February of this year for his DCCC campaign. One of these is seen above, and several others are still visible in his campaign’s Facebook ad library. (They are the three ads in the second row on that page, under the heading “Launched January 2024.”)

“Bilial Mahmood is a neuroscientist, business owner, and community leader,” the narrator’s voice says in the ad, with the word “neuroscientist” flashed prominently at the outset of the ads.

Image: Bilal Mahmood for DCCC Member 2024 via Facebook

Those ads were from a month or two ago, but again, the “neuroscientist” reference has since been removed from more recent campaign advertising, Mahmood’s website, and his social media bios. Mahmood’s campaign has not responded to SFNews’s request for comment on why the claim was suddenly scrubbed.

Yet the March 1 letter from the team of neuroscientists says that “From our understanding, your primary undergraduate research experience was a brief part-time internship on ‘scarless wound-healing,’ not on the nervous system; and your graduate thesis was on Strategic Implications of US Health Reform on Pharmaceutical Market Access. While these are both important and interesting topics, we do not see the connection to neuroscience.”


Mahmood is seen above with renowned Stanford neuroendocrinology researcher and neurosurgery Professor Robert Sapolksy. But this does not equate with an earned degree in neuroscience. “We also read that you did research for one year during your undergrad with Dr. Robert Sapolsky,” the letter from neuroscientists says. “But we did not find any references to the brain or neuroscience in your senior thesis work on political violence and terrorism.”

Admittedly, this is politics, and rival campaigns throw charges around at each other all the time. Earlier this month, the SF Standard covered a slew of charges made against Mahmood by a rival political group, and the questioning of the neuroscientist claim was among them.

The Standard reported at the time that Mahmood “said he holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from Stanford University and an M.Phil (the equivalent of a master’s) in bioscience enterprise from Cambridge University, and conducted neuroscience research for one year under professor Robert Sapolsky.” This is consistent with the education listed on Mahmood’s LinkedIn profile. There are science degrees there, and some neuroscience course work, but no awarded credentials in neuroscience.

SFNews reached out to one of the eight neuroscientists who sent the March 1 letter, Dr. Maxwell Turner.

“I think it's OK to have an inclusive definition of what constitutes a scientist,” Dr. Turner told SFNews. “But when a public figure makes an exaggerated claim like this in order to appear credentialed or qualified in some way, it is dishonest. And it reflects poorly on the field to have people going around claiming to be neuroscientists for political purposes. I'm glad Mr. Mahmood has decided to walk this claim back.”

It certainly appears that District 5 supervisor candidate Bilal Mahmood has impressive credentials in scientific fields, so it’s curious why he seems to have exaggerated one of them. Again, his campaign has declined to comment on why the “neuroscientist” language was removed from campaign materials.

Mahmood says in a February 27 tweet that “From neuroscience to regenerative medicine research, I developed a discipline of asking hard questions.” But this incident makes one wonder if Mahmood or his campaign are willing to answer difficult questions.

Related: Former Tech Exec Bilal Mahmood Declares He’s Taking on Dean Preston for District 5 Supervisor [SFNews]

Image: Bilal Mahmood for DCCC Member 2024 via Facebook