Kilgard is a 2009 recipient of the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award for The University of Texas System. His devotion to mentorship and developing translational science is evident in his lab, where he maintains a group of more than 20 undergraduate, six graduate and five post-doctoral researchers.
I thanked one of my early mentors in my doctoral thesis for telling me I was thinking like a technician. At the time he said that, I was a technician, but he told me, ‘Don’t do that; you can think beyond what you’re doing and your job description.’ That was a big deal for me, so now I try to give students the same opportunity to do as much as they can.
Dr. Michael Kilgard focuses on conducting neuroscience research that can be translated into clinical settings. Research into using vagus nerve stimulation to treat tinnitus and stroke recovery has given him initial success toward this goal.
Kilgard’s early work involved exploring how the brain understands sounds and developing methods for manipulating this encoding. He continues this work but also pursues research to improve treatments for stroke, traumatic brain injuries, autism and the phantom sounds associated with tinnitus.
“My motivation is to conduct experiments with the greatest likelihood of translating the findings to human treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders,” Kilgard said. “A billion people worldwide have one of these conditions, and right now we mostly treat the symptoms. In the future, it will be possible to treat the underlying disease mechanism.”
Kilgard has received multiple grants totaling several million dollars from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke. His 1998 Science paper, “Cortical map reorganization enabled by nucleus basalis activity,” remains the most highly cited paper confirming the brain’s ability to change with experiences.
Kilgard received a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1993 and a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco, in 1998. He began teaching at UT Dallas in 1999 as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 2011.