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Michaelis, Mary Lou

Mary Lou
Michaelis, PhD
Year Inducted: 
Mary Lou Michaelis
  • Medicinal Chemistry researcher on Alzheimer’s and Alcoholism
  • Chair of the National Institutes of Health Neuroscience of Aging Review Committee
  • 1997: First individual to ever receive the Rho Chi Award for Excellence in Teaching from the School of Pharmacy twice
  • 2002: Received W.T. Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Elected to Steering Committee of Women in Neurosciences
  • 2006: named a University Woman of Distinction

Mary Lou Michaelis, Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology at the University of Kansas, is an exemplary teacher and outstanding scholar.  One colleague commented on being impressed with Dr. Michaelis’ “professionalism, dedication to the betterment of the University of Kansas, and determination in pursuing a cutting-edge research program.” 

Dr. Michaelis received her BA in Experimental Psychology from Webster University in St. Louis in 1966 before coming to the University of Kansas, where she earned her MA in Developmental Psychology in 1968 and her PhD in Neurosciences in 1978.  She focuses on the biochemical and molecular aspects of neurotransmitter release in the brains of mammals, an area of research with much medicinal value.  She particularly emphasizes the regulation of calcium in nerve terminals.  Such research has included the effects of drugs such as alcohol on the brain, which can influence calcium transport of proteins.  She has also been involved with the Human Genome Project, the research program with the goal of identifying the function of all human genes.  She has taken leadership positions in well over 30 grants, published more than 50 articles in national and international journals, and presented over fifty papers at professional conferences.

One of her most-discussed projects has been with the use of taxol in conjuction with Gunda Georg, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry.  Taxol has previously been used to halt the process of rapidly dividing cancer cells.  It was thought that perhaps taxol could slow down the damage done to brain cells in Alzheimer’s Disease.  This drug was an unlikely candidate, because brain cells in adults never divide.  However, it could slow the growth of the damaging poisonous protein fibers which cause the disease.  Taxol stabilizes microtubules, which make long processes in the brain through which they contact other cells with.

Dr. Michaelis has worked with many national health organizations.  With the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, she has both received and reviewed grants.  She worked to discover gene modifications which may become Alzheimer’s treatment targets.  From 2003-04, she was the Chair of the National Institutes of Health Neuroscience of Aging Review Committee.  She has been a reviewer, member, committee chair, grant recipient, and special consultant for both the national Institute on Aging and the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, divisions of the National Institutes of Health.  Additionally, she has served as Chairman for the Cardiovascular Research Peer Review Committee and President for the Kansas Affiliate of the American Heart Association.  Dr. Michaelis has also been involved with the National Science Foundation for the length of her entire professional career, serving as a Neurosciences grant proposal reviewer and members of several committees.


Honors & Achievements: 
  • 1994 and 1997 she received the Rho Chi Award for Excellence in Teaching from the School of Pharmacy, the first individual to ever receive that award twice in his or her career. 
  • In 2002, she received a Kemper Award for her praise from students and peers “for her well-pared, consistently cutting edge lectures in the rapidly changing field of cardiovascular pharmacology” and providing all levels of students with “the skills and encouragement…to be highly competitive in field.” 
  • Elected President of the KU Chapter of Iota Sigma Pi Chemistry Honor Society
  • Elected to the Steering Committee of Women in Neurosciences by colleagues
  • In 2006, she was named one of the University’s Women of Distinction.

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